- The Washington Times - Monday, November 23, 2015

ASHBURN — For Jay Gruden, one of the most frustrating aspects of the penalty that negated cornerback Chris Culliver’s interception return for a touchdown in the Washington Redskins’ 44-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday was that it could not be reviewed.

In the second quarter, with the score tied, 14-14, Culliver hit tight end Greg Olsen as he tried to secure a pass from Cam Newton. The hit popped the ball loose, Culliver snagged it and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown. The potential momentum swing was negated by a personal foul because Culliver was flagged for unnecessary roughness for his hit on Olsen.

In a league where a significant number of things can be reviewed, personal fouls are not reviewable.

The rulebook prohibits contact against a player in a defenseless position, but is not restricted to helmet-to-helmet hits. According to Rule 12-2-9(b1), a player cannot “forcibly hit the defenseless player’s head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, even if the initial contact is lower than the player’s neck and regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling him or grasping him.”

“It’s very confusing,” Gruden said. “Jordan Reed caught an out route early in the game and got hit right on his head and there was no call. It’s just unfortunate. You feel helpless as a coach [that] you can’t even challenge that. It’s a touchdown play, too, and you can’t challenge it, unfortunately. Hopefully, something happens that a play of that magnitude is challengeable. We understand the way we’re trying to keep player safety alive and it’s a very important part of this game, player safety and where to hit people. When calls are made that may not should have been called, those are the most frustrating ones, the ones you don’t understand.”

Gruden also said he saw no issue with Culliver’s hit.

“We just have to preach what the target area is, but I didn’t see anything wrong what Chris did, where his body position was, where he hit the player,” Gruden said. “It was called and we have to deal with it.”

The Redskins submitted the play to the league office for review, but have not heard about a clarification.

Many players were frustrated by the call. After the game, defensive end Jason Hatcher suggested officials are penalizing the Redskins because of the team’s name. He later doubled down on his frustration on Instagram with a post about the play. Several other players, such as defensive linemen Chris Baker, Rickey Jean Francois and Terrance Knighton, also criticized the call on Twitter.

On Monday, Gruden made it clear he did not feel as if the play was why the Redskins lost.

“I think everybody is a little frustrated after the game,” Gruden said. “What [Hatcher] said is what he said. It’s already in the newspaper. You go back and look, we’ve been pretty good as far as penalties have been concerned. We were in bottom third, bottom fourth of penalties against us. It just seemed yesterday, two major, major penalties went against us and people are frustrated by that. But, we have to recover from those things. They happen. Calls that go against you in the course of a football game happen. We have to rebound from them like every other team in the NFL does.

“To point the finger at an official after a hard loss yesterday, it probably isn’t right because we lost by 30. Those calls probably made a big difference in the football game, but there’s a lot of things we did as a coaching staff and as a team that weren’t good enough to win in Carolina against an undefeated team.”

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