Dallas Cowboy cornerback Dennis Thurman has been fined $1,000 for "spearing" Philadelphia quarterback Ron Jaworski with his helmet three weeks ago. Thurman said today that he was shocked by the action and will appeal.
National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle said in a letter to Thurman that the player had committed "flagrant misconduct" in striking Jaworski in the ribs with his helmet. Dallas was penalized 15 yards. The Eagles' quarterback had to leave the game.
"The letter made it sound like I was trying to hurt somebody," Thurman said. "That was not my intention. It was like he (Rozelle) was saying that he knew what was going on in my heart and mind. No man knows what is going on in my heart and mind."
Several Cowboys players have offered to help pay Thurman's fine. Until the appeal is made, however, Thurman said he will discourage teammates from collecting money.
Meanwhile, Dallas Coach Tom Landry said today that it would be pointless to protest to the NFL about the fact that Detroit had 12 men on the field when the Lions made their game-winning field goal Sunday.
"I've been at it long enough to know that wouldn't do any good," Landry said at his weekly press gathering.
Landry said it would take most of the week for the Cowboys to recover from the last-second loss and get ready for their game Sunday against the Redskins at Texas Stadium.
"Washington is probably playing as good as any team in the (NFC) East right now," said Landry. "They've won five out of their last six games, losing only to Miami by a field goal. They are the team I thought they would be at the first of the year."
The fine against Thurman was not made at the suggestion of Philadelphia, according to Eagles Coach Dick Vermeil.
"I made the comment after the game that it was not malicious intent to injure our quarterback," Vermeil said. "I know Dennis. I recruited him to play football at UCLA several years ago. He wasn't trying to hurt anybody. I think the play warranted a penalty, but I don't know about the fine. But I've been fined before, and I know all things don't go the right way."
Tex Schramm, Cowboys president, said he will encourage Thurman to appeal the fine.
"The commissioner used the words 'flagrant misconduct,' and I don't think that was in Thurman's mind," Schramm said. "The problem is that Thurman was not fully cognizant of the rules. And if flagrant misconduct was the basis of the fine, I would suggest that he appeal."
Recently, NFL legislation was passed to protect quarterbacks from injury. Linemen are permitted to block with their hands and defensive linemen are prohibited from striking a quarterback above the shoulders. Once a quarterback is in the grasp of a defensive player, the official will whistle the play dead.
Driving a helmet into the quarterback's ribs also is prohibited.
Gene Stallings, the Cowboys defensive secondary coach, said Thurman had not been informed of the new rules. "I feel for him because somewhere along the line we failed to communicate the rule to him," Stallings said. "I didn't even know that it was against the rules to tackle a quarterback like that. I thought he had made a good, clean tackle. That's what our players are paid to do."
Thurman said he attempted to apologize to Jaworski after the game, but the quarterback had left the field.
"I found Vermeil and told him to tell Ron that I was sorry," Thurman said. "I don't know if he heard me or not. I also told some of their players I was sorry."
Because of the fine and the 15-yard penalty, Thurman said he is more hesitant about delivering hard tackles.
"Right after the penalty I was blitzing from the other side against their other quarterback, Joe Pisarcik," he said. "And I had a chance to sack him. But I jumped and tried to block the pass. If I'd kept driving, I would have sacked him. As it worked out, they almost scored a touchdown on the play.
"All I can think about now is that I'm going to get another 15-yard penalty that will lose the game for us.
"Right now I wonder if (Buffalo guard) Conrad Dobler is going to get fined for kicking John Dutton like he did. If anything, that was a very unnatural act. I didn't take a swing at anybody or kick anybody."