BEREA, Ohio — From his press box seat, Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner thought it was obvious quarterback Jason Campbell had been struck in the helmet by Pittsburgh’s William Gay.
Thousands of fans thought so, too.
None of that mattered.
Referee Terry McAulay didn’t see it, and Turner believes that should never be the case.
“You’d just like someone to come in and help him make that call,” Turner said Friday. “The way it’s being emphasized by the league, it should never be missed, and the ones that they’ve made mistakes on is where they’ve gone too far. So this one obviously they didn’t go far enough.”
Campbell sustained a concussion from Gay’s blind-side hit, which crumpled the QB and caused him to fumble. On his way down, Campbell’s head banged off the frozen turf, and as he lay on his back at midfield, the ball was scooped up by Pittsburgh’s Will Allen and returned 49 yards to set up a touchdown for the Steelers. Gay was not penalized.
The play swung the game, and perhaps Cleveland’s season as Campbell, who is following the NFL’s protocol on head injuries, will miss Sunday’s game against Jacksonville.
Gay was assessed a $15,750 fine on Friday for “unnecessary roughness.” According to a league spokesman, Gay was punished because he “unnecessarily delivered a forcible blow to his opponent’s head and neck area.”
Too little, too late for the Browns.
While the fine on Gay is an indirect acknowledgment by the league that the officials missed the call, it does nothing for the Browns (4-7), who were beaten, 27-11, by the Steelers and had their playoff hopes severely damaged.
With the emphasis on head injuries and player protection, Browns Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas would favor a tweak to the instant-replay system to include hits to the helmet.
“I know there’s two officials that sit in the booth and are watching the game, and it would be nice to have them be able to review those type of plays,” Thomas said. “They’re turning out to be as big of a momentum swing, as big of a play in the game, as a turnover or a touchdown, and those are automatic because the NFL has said those plays are so important that we need to automatically review them.
“But a potential 15-yard penalty or a fumble returned for almost a touchdown, that’s a humongous play in the game.”
Browns coach Rob Chudzinksi argued for a penalty during the game, but was told Campbell was hit in the shoulder.
Turner, an NFL head coach for 15 seasons and in the league since 1985, said his initial reaction was that Campbell had been hit in the head, and every replay confirmed his instincts.
“I thought he got hit in the face mask right from the beginning,” Turner said, “and then obviously you see the replay and it’s really easy to see from all the angles except the one that the referee had — he’s standing behind.”
If Gay had been penalized, the Browns, trailing by 13-3 at the time, would have had a first down at Pittsburgh’s 24. Instead, after the sack, fumble and return, the Steelers had the ball at the Browns 4 and scored on the following play.
Around the league
• Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar is expected to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury sustained in a Thanksgiving win over Oakland. The Cowboys reported on their website Friday that Dunbar will have surgery for an injury to the joint in his left knee. He ran for a career-high 82 yards Thursday.
• Adrian Peterson returned to Minnesota Vikings’ practice on Friday and is probable for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears. Peterson, second in the league with 997 yards rushing, has been limited for three weeks with a groin injury and missed two days of practice earlier this week.