Unfortunately, conduct outside of the normal course of the game is casting a shadow over the play on the field.
Just before halftime, as the 49ers were kneeling to run out the final 8 seconds of the half, there was a scuffle between a pair of San Francisco offensive linemen — Aaron Banks and Trent Williams — and Giants’ DT A’Shawn Robinson. A flag was thrown for unnecessary roughness, but there were no ejections.
After the game, NFL senior VP of officiating Walt Anderson said, “When we have a flag thrown for unnecessary roughness, members of the officiating department are able to review the available video, Rule 19, to determine if there is a flagrant action that should result in disqualification. We ended up looking at the video available to us, and we just didn’t see anything that rose to the level of flagrant, which is the standard we have to apply to disqualify a the player.”
“These are judgement calls,” he added, “and a lot of times you might end up having an open hand, often a stiff arm to the face, versus a closed fist punch, which certainly carries a different weight to it. So, we ended up looking at the available video we had and just didn’t feel like the actions rose to the level of flagrant. You can certainly end up having contact with hands to the helmet, and some of those actions would be deemed a punch, others would not.”
Giants’ fans are, of course, incensed by a the close-up video of the strike from Williams to Robinson’s facemask.
A wider angle and longer runtime gives us more context:
It should have been a routine knee-down to end the half. However, Banks shoves Robinson after the play. Robinson responds by tagging Williams on the chin, under his facemask, after which Williams hits Robinson.
Trent Williams and A'Shawn Robinson get into it before the end of the first half. Williams punched Robinson (his helmet).— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 22, 2023
There were no ejections....pic.twitter.com/Rj9CiGZ835
After the game, Giants head coach Brian Daboll said, “I saw a couple of punches thrown and then the referees backed everybody off. I couldn’t see the whole thing. I just saw a couple of punches there.”
Edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux said, “It’s just the heat of the game, you know? When you have big games and a lot of great players on the field, it gets chippy.”
Walt Anderson said, “In the video we ended up reviewing, and in a lot of these primetime games, there is often a whole lot of camera angles, from the ones we looked at, we just felt that it didn’t rise to the level of flagrant.” He added, “We couldn’t confirm that 100 percent from the standpoint of ‘was that truly a closed fist with a strike,’ we just couldn’t do that.”
It certainly appeared flagrant in the angle we were able to see, if not unprovoked.
This was a very physical game and there were a few incidents of that physicality spilling over after the whistle. It’s obviously never okay for players to strike each other, and it’s generally more likely to hurt your own team than the guy you’re hitting.
Perhaps Williams was saved by the inaccuracy of his punch, or maybe the referees just wanted to get the players apart and into the locker room where they could cool off. Whatever the reason why there weren’t any ejections, the officials made their call — though it wouldn’t be surprising to see the league office fine Williams in the coming week. And if so, that would certainly be the right call.
Even in the heat of a chippy game, there is no reason for one player to hit another.
Should Trent Williams have been ejected Thursday for punching A’Shawn Robinson?
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