An odd thing happened to the Washington Redskins' Mike Nelms today during a second-quarter kickoff return in the Redskins' 27-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the Kingdome.
Nelms was pre-empted by a television commercial. Sort of.
Let CBS Sports producer John Faratzis explain: "What happened was, we were back on the air for this kickoff, but one of the referees thought we were still on a commercial. So he blew the whistle, ending the play, after the ball had already been kicked off."
Consequently, Nelms' 44-yard return to the Washington 40 was nullified. On a subsequent re-kick, Nelms returned the ball only to the Washington 22.
"When I heard it was a commercial," said Nelms, "I was upset. I thought this was a game of football, not commercials."
A similar thing happened in a game between the New York Jets and the San Diego Chargers earlier this season, when a kickoff return was replayed because the network televising that game was still on a commercial break.
"We didn't blow anything," said Faratzis. "Anybody who was watching the game on television knows we were not on a commercial. One of the officials knew we were back on the air, but another official just blew his whistle."
Nelms said, "Three-fourths of the way through (the return), I knew something wasn't right. Some (Seattle) guys were just standing around. I thought either the blocking was great or a whistle had been blown. I thought we were going to get a penalty and lose just a few yards."
Washington Coach Joe Gibbs, obviously dismayed, said, "We'll go over our films and turn in to the league any mistakes that we thought were made, just like we always do . . . You kick off and you play. You don't blow the whistle in the middle (of the play)."
Seattle Coach Chuck Knox was not exactly pleased with the game officiating today, either. At halftime, he dashed over to talk to one official.
Asked about his chat, Knox said, "I came across the field to remind that gentleman that there were two teams out there."
Another unfortunate event tarnished Nelms' afternoon. He was interfered with by a Seattle safety Don Dufek while attempting to return a punt from the Washington 16, also during the second quarter.
The Redskins were awarded a 15-yard penalty, but Nelms was credited with a fair catch on the play. It was Nelms' first fair catch since 1981 when a similar penalty on a punt return credited him with a fair catch. Once again, a technicality.
"I don't like to fair catch," said Nelms, who has made it to the Pro Bowl the last three years, "because I think it is boring. They can put it down as a fair catch, but I won't put my hand up for a fair catch.
"I don't know if that Seattle guy who hit me was doing it flagrantly or not. If he was, I hope the league takes action. If it wasn't done deliberately, then it's no big deal."
Numerous reporters kept stopping by Nelms' locker room cubicle, unusual for a player whose only contribution to the game was two punt returns for 11 yards and two kickoff returns for 41 yards.
As yet another reporter dropped by Nelms' locker, he was overheard saying one more time, "Yeah, I'm mad." He was also smiling, ever so slightly.