The NFL has privately recognized that a helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield on Sunday should have resulted in a penalty, according to multiple reports Tuesday.
Multiple outlets, including ESPN and The Cleveland Plain Dealer, reported that the league has agreed with the Browns' stance that Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead should have been penalized on the play, even as it publicly declines to comment. The Plain Dealer reported that Whitehead will likely be fined for the hit later this week.
The collision occurred midway through the fourth quarter of the Browns' 26-23 loss to the Buccaneers, when Mayfield was attempting to slide at the conclusion of a 35-yard run. Officials initially flagged Whitehead on the play but then decided to pick up the flag after a brief discussion, with referee Shawn Hochuli explaining that "the quarterback was still a runner and therefore is allowed to be hit in the head."
Mayfield and the Browns took issue with the play after the game.
"There's a lot of stuff being put on protecting the quarterback,'' Mayfield told reporters in his postgame news conference. "It doesn't seem like the Browns are getting a lot of calls. They can review it and they can say I was a runner, but I started my slide. It's helmet-to-helmet contact. I felt it. But I got up and let the guy know he's going to have to hit me a lot harder than that if he wants to affect me."
Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.
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