Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw has blamed the heat and resulting fatigue, frustration and edginess for flareups that prompted three palyers to be ejected from the Steeler-New England Patriot game Sunday in Foxboro, Mass. The contest raised the question of whether officials are trying to keep tighter control of NFL games.
The games was played with temperatures hovering around 130 degrees on the artificial field and went into overtime before the Pats prevailed, 13-10.
In view of the ejections, Art McNally, supervisor of NFL officials, was asked if perhaps there has been a stricter interpretation of the rules ordered during the preseason to get the players in line for the regular season. Several teams have noted an increase in the number of penalties this summer.
"Our officials are doing nothing different from last season," McNally said. "If there seems to be a high incidence of calls it probably is because there are so many more inexperienced players during the preseason."
As to the experiment with an extra, or seventh, official in some exhibition games, McNally said there have been fewer penalties in those games.
The Patriots' all time regular-season high for penalties called against them has been 11. In exhibitions this season, they drew 18 against the New York Giants, 11 against Green Bay and 14 against Philadelphia. These figures do not include penalties declined.
There are usually about 20 penalties called against both teams in the exhibitions, 13 during the regular season and eight in the postseason.
There were eight called against the Steelers on Sunday and seven against the Patriots. When Baltimore played played at Houston on Aug. 14, there were 31 penalties.
Twelve persons among the surprisingly large crowd of 43,779 in Foxboro passed out in the heat. So did five cheerleaders. Television watchers saw referee Bernie Ulman collapse from heat prostration and be replaced by Tom Kelleher.
Some players reported the heated turf burned through their shoes and they changed them to try to get relief.
Bradshaw said there probably were quite a few cheap shots taken by both teams because the players tired in the heat and had trouble doing their jobs. "Even little things bothered some," he said.
The quarterback admitted that he got upset when the biggest player on the New England squad, 6-foot-6, 270-pound defensive end Greg Boyd, knocked him on his back and then appeared to be trying to pin him with a forearm across the chin as Bradshaw wriggled vigorously.
Bradshaw admitted something that the camera did not show - "He had me and I reached with my left hand inside his face mask and might have hit his eyes."
Boyd said of Bradshaw's penetration through his face mask, "He hit me right on the chin." Boyd was ejected from the game, but Bradshaw was not.
In another incident, wide receiver Lynn Swann of the Steelers was thrown down near the sideline by linebacker Steve Nelson, touching off some fisticuffs. Swann and Nelson were rejected from the game, which seemed a bit harsh since such action frequently has not even rated a penalty.
Swann admitted that the lost his poise and some observes wondered if he and the officials reacted to the climate created by recent court suits.
Swann was knocked unconscious last year by a forearm blow to the back of the head by safety George Atkinson of the Oakland Raiders.
Chuck Noll of the Steelers called Atkinson "part of the criminal element in pro football" and Atkinson unsuccessfully sued the coach for $2 million, charging slander.
More recently, another suit was dismissed in which defensive back Dale Hackbart charged that running back Bobbie Clark to the financial Bengals caused a neck injury to Hackbart with a similar type of blow, which he described as "outrageous conduct."