Yep, he’s a barrel of laughs alright, and there’s no middle ground. You either love his flare and charisma, or hate his self-absorbed antics, just like you hated Terrell Owens and his driveway sit-ups, and just like you hated Chad Ochocinco doing the Carlton dance.
The latest bit of showmanship for Jackson came at the end of his historic game-winning punt return touchdown last Sunday against the Giants. After sprinting away from New York’s coverage team, Jackson tip-toed along the goal-line. Madden gaming geeks recognized this immediately as a strategy to kill the clock.
As always, there’s more than meets the eye with Jackson, who later said he was indeed trying to kill the clock, but as usual was also adding his own special touch to a play that was already making history. Now, four days later Ball Hyped captured the image above showing several Eagles players and coaches prematurely running out onto the field before Jackson cross the goal-line.
In theory, this is a 15-yard penalty, and a nullification of Jackson’s touchdown. In practice, there’s no way any human referee would ever throw the flag in this scenario. But given how sensitive the sideline has become after Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi trip Nolan Carroll two weeks ago, any sideline infraction could be met with strict punishment.
The NFL sent a memo to all 32 teams stating that only a handful of substitution players are allowed with the “second border” of the sidelines, and the picture clearly shows the Eagles have more than their share. The punishment is a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, which in this case would have meant the end of the fourth quarter and the start of overtime. Once an offensive penalty has been committed with the clock running out, the quarter ends.
Referees have the ability to use personal discretion, and if they spotted the Eagles’ premature stampede–highly unlikely since it’s just now surfacing on Thursday–the right decision was made. There have been a few instances in sports in which a penalty for an extra man or men had a significant impact, including a glaring one in hockey. But the Eagles ran onto the field mere milliseconds before Jackson crossed the goal-line, and their presence did not affect the play.
Anyone who brushes aside the potential penalty as a petty call is missing the point though. This could have been the third time in his career when Jackson’s selfish showmanship took points off the board.
Only this time it would have been more than just points. The Eagles would have been forced to play an extra frame in a crucial game against a division rival, and a historic punt return would have been erased from our memory.