Mike Tomlin maintains that he didn’t realize how close he was to the field of play during his sideline mishap last Thursday, but he’s also not using that as an excuse.
Tomlin, who was nearly bowled over by Ravens returner Jacoby Jones on a kick return on Thanksgiving, accepted responsibility for his actions during his press conference on Tuesday, even noting that it was “embarrassing, inexcusable, illegal” and a “blunder.” More than his mere embarrassment for what some deemed to be a feeble attempt at cheating, Tomlin seemed genuinely upset at the notion that he may have undermined the integrity of the game.
“That play jeopardized the integrity of the NFL from a competition standpoint,” Tomlin said, via NFL.com. “I will take this unfortunate incident — this blunder on my part – and in doing so, I will honor to stand up and champion our game, and in particular, the National Football League, and the integrity of that. It’s all that I have professionally. It’s been very good to me in my life, and to be honest with you, quite frankly, the winning of any game is not important enough for me to jeopardize that.”
Tomlin spent the better part of 20 minutes addressing the controversy and answering questions about it from reporters. During the entire interview, the Steelers head coach refused to make any excuses or defend himself in light of the incident, further stressing the importance of him, as a head coach, setting a precedent for the rest of the league to follow.
“As head coaches, we’re held to higher standards of conduct, and that blunder fell woefully short and in that vein I accept … the repercussions of a blunder of that nature,” Tomlin said. “I embrace it. With my position comes preserving the integrity of the game of football.”
The NFL has reviewed the incident and is expected to dish out a hefty punishment, likely in the form of a six-figure fine, to Tomlin before the end of the week.