The Washington Redskins were told by NFL officials yesterday that the league is likely to fine wide receiver Michael Westbrook for his comments about the officiating in Sunday's loss to the Detroit Lions, sources close to the situation said.
The fine apparently could be levied today, and Redskins officials expect it to be around $10,000. Greg Aiello, the NFL's vice president of public relations, said yesterday: "Disciplinary action is under consideration."
Meantime, Coach Norv Turner said he intends to get tailback Stephen Davis more involved in the offense in Sunday's crucial game against the Arizona Cardinals at FedEx Field. Davis and some offensive linemen expressed surprise and disappointment after Davis, the NFC's leading rusher, got only three second-half carries during a 33-17 loss at the Silverdome.
Westbrook criticized the officiating following Sunday's game, and increased his criticism on Monday when he said it was as if the Redskins were facing 12 men. He questioned the propriety of line judge Byron Boston working a game involving the Redskins since Boston's son, David, is a rookie wide receiver for the Cardinals. The Cardinals (6-6) will try to tie the Redskins (7-5) for first place in the NFC East on Sunday.
Turner said yesterday that Westbrook did not speak on behalf of the organization.
"We in no way would question the integrity of any NFL official, especially Byron Boston," Turner said. "Any thoughts or concerns we would have would be handled privately through the league."
According to sources close to the situation, NFL officials contacted the Redskins yesterday and asked whether the team intended to fine Westbrook. They said the league would not fine Westbrook if the Redskins planned to do so. The Redskins indicated they did not intend to fine Westbrook, and were told to expect the wide receiver to be fined by the NFL.
Westbrook was not available to comment yesterday, a day off for players. The NFL declined to make Byron Boston available to comment.
Three NFL coaches--the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Tony Dungy, the Baltimore Ravens' Brian Billick and the Lions' Bobby Ross--and Indianapolis Colts President Bill Polian have been fined $10,000 apiece this season for comments about officiating.
The Redskins were flagged for 14 penalties on Sunday and lost two touchdowns on plays that involved calls reversed by instant-replay reviews. Referee Phil Luckett's crew had three calls reversed by replay during the Redskins-Lions game.
Westbrook lost a fourth-quarter touchdown catch on a replay ruling that he hadn't gotten both feet inbounds. The Redskins felt Westbrook was either inbounds or had been forced out by a Lions defender. Either way they believed the play should have been called a touchdown.
The Redskins also should have had a first-quarter touchdown on a catch of a deflected pass by fullback Larry Centers. Officials initially ruled the play an incomplete pass, saying the ball had touched the ground as Lions safety Mark Carrier attempted to make a diving interception.
Centers caught the ball on the rebound and ran into the end zone. After a challenge by Turner and a replay review, the play was ruled a completed pass, but the Redskins were only given a first down at the Detroit 30-yard line and had to settle for a field goal.
The Redskins also were upset about a pair of third-quarter calls--a false start against center Cory Raymer and a hands-to-the-face penalty against rookie right tackle Jon Jansen that wiped out a 16-yard completion to wide receiver Irving Fryar on a third-and-four play. The Redskins believe the game films showed Jansen had his hand on the shoulder pad of Lions defensive end Robert Porcher, then had his hand pushed up into Porcher's face mask by Porcher.
The Redskins sent several plays from the game to the league office for review.
Byron Boston is in his fifth season as an NFL official and has worked two NFC championship games. The NFL's competition committee reviewed the situation before the season and decided that Boston would not be allowed to work regular season games involving the Cardinals but would not be prohibited from working other games.
As for Davis, Turner said he hopes to improve on the 12 carries the tailback got Sunday.
"We want to have Stephen involved every week," Turner said. "Games develop differently every time. If you look at what we've done here, I think we've made it pretty clear we want to have our tailback involved in the running game."
Davis has totaled only 112 yards on 36 carries in the Redskins' last two games after gaining 183 yards in 33 carries against the New York Giants.
He benefited early in the season when the Redskins' offense was clicking. Quarterback Brad Johnson could choose from among several down-field receiving threats--Westbrook, wide receiver Albert Connell and tight end Stephen Alexander--and defenses were stretched, leaving holes for Davis to run through.
Now, Westbrook is playing with a cast over the broken bone in his right wrist and has scored one touchdown the last two games. Connell's production has slipped lately, and Alexander missed Sunday's loss because of a strained hip flexor. The team's offensive line hasn't protected Johnson as well as it did earlier in the season, and he has been throwing shorter passes. Centers has 21 catches in the club's last three games. Defenses can concentrate more on Davis. The Redskins also are committing more penalties and turnovers, leaving them in more passing situations.