Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury may reveal a flaw with NFL officials’ face masks

Tribune Content Agency

Jimmy Garoppolo’s high-ankle sprain Sunday is worth revisiting, not to actually analyze his health, but rather the NFL’s safety measures regarding officials’ face coverings.

If officials can not promptly stop plays because masks interfere with their whistles, then, well, what’s an injured player to do?

“There have been no issues. Officials have the option of push-button whistles or using their whistle under the face coverings,” a NFL spokesman responded via email Thursday.

No issues, huh?

Garoppolo was brought down to a knee by Quinnen Williams’ illegal, low swipe at his ankle, on the 49ers’ second series of their eventual win over the New York Jets. That is just the start of the 49ers’ issues with that play.

As referee Ron Torbert rushed in from 10 yards behind to call the play dead, video replays show Torbert struggling to blow his whistle, through his mask.

Before Torbert could unhitch his mask with his other hand to whistle and signal for Garoppolo’s safety, Jets defender Tarrell Basham piled onto the 49ers’ prone quarterback. No penalties were called.

“They didn’t call that (illegal hit by Williams) and then they couldn’t blow the whistle because his mask was on,” coach Kyle Shanahan said after Sunday’s 31-13 win. “He couldn’t get the mask off in time, so while Jimmy’s laying there and they can’t blow a whistle because the mask was on, a guy came and hit him again. So, I thought there should’ve been two penalties on that play.”

Several Jets defenders could face fines for their actions Sunday, such as the non-penalized hits by Williams and Basham, as well as the roughing-the-passer penalties levied against Henry Anderson (on Garoppolo in the second quarter) and Kyle Phillips (on Garoppolo’s successor, Nick Mullens, in the third quarter).

Any fines will be announced Saturday.

Shanahan already received his fine, a hefty $100,000 bill for not consistently wearing his gaiter face covering on the sideline, and the 49ers organization got levied $250,000 for that, too. Four other coaches and teams drew similar punishment, including the Raiders.

“Obviously, I can do a better job during the game of wearing it and I got the message and I will do a better job,” Shanahan said. “But, I don’t want to take away from the fact of how good our organization has done in this stuff, in the buildings, with all the players, how we’ve traveled, the money we’ve put into it to make it safe.”

Clay Martin is Sunday’s referee for the 49ers’ return trip to MetLife Stadium to face the New York Giants.


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