Cleveland Browns quarterback DeShaun Watson will not be punished by the NFL for shoving an official during Monday night’s 26-22 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the league announced Tuesday.
During a third-quarter drive Watson was pushed out of bounds by Steelers linebacker Kwon Alexander. As Watson stiff-armed Alexander high, Watson’s finger became stuck in Alexander’s helmet and Watson swung his arm in an attempt to break free.
That didn’t sit well with the Steelers, and a scrum ensued with Watson exchanging words with Steelers players. As he was attempting to get closer to the sideline, Watson shoved an official out of his way.
Under NFL rules, that should result in an ejection.
“Unnecessary physical contact with a game official. Under no circumstance is a player allowed to shove, push, or strike an official in an offensive, disrespectful, or unsportsmanlike manner. The player shall be disqualified from the game, and any such action must be reported to the Commissioner.”
The league announced Tuesday that Watson will not face a fine or suspension for the shove and will be available for Cleveland’s game against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
“Officials are called upon to maintain order on the field, and sometimes while performing those duties, there is inadvertent contact between players and officials. In this instance, in their judgment, the contact did not rise to the level of a foul.”
But NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero noted that the two face-mask infractions that led to unsportsmanlike conduct calls against Watson could lead to a fine.
“Both [penalites were] my fault, but as far as the facemask and things like that, I’m stiff-arming just like everyone else,” Watson said after the loss. “And once they grab my arm as I’m running, they keep pushing, only way I can really let go is to swing across. And once they do that, my hand is stuck in their helmet or in their facemask, so I gotta do a better job of just hitting them with the palm, I guess, and just releasing as much as I can so we don’t get those penalties.”
It was a tough night for Watson. Aside from dropping to 1-1 on the season and the two penalties, the Browns quarterback was picked off on the game’s opening play for a touchdown and fumbled twice, including a recovery by Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt that led to the game-winning score.