Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead should have been penalized for a hit on Baker Mayfield on Sunday.
The NFL has privately acknowledged that Buccaneers' safety Jordan Whitehead should have been flagged for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield on Sunday, ESPN reported on Tuesday.
According to the report, the NFL recognizes that Whitehead could have been penalized for unnecessary roughness for hitting Mayfield after the quarterback began to slide, or for unsportsmanlike conduct for the hit to the head. The league has declined to publicly comment on the hit, but a report from the Cleveland Plain Dealer states that Whitehead could be fined on Friday.
Mayfield was hit at the end of a 35-yard run in the fourth quarter of the Browns' 26-23 overtime loss on Sunday. Mayfield slid before Whitehead hit him with his helmet. A flag was initially thrown before referee Shawn Hoculi declared Mayfield was still a runner when the hit occurred.
"There's a lot of stuff being put out on protecting the quarterback," Mayfield said after the game. "Doesn't seem like the Browns are getting a lot of calls, but they can review it, and they can say I was a runner, but I started my slide. That's helmet-to-helmet contact. I felt it."
Coach Hue Jackson said on Monday that the Browns would ask the league for clarification as to why the flag was picked up, calling the no-call "disappointing."
The Browns (2–4–1) will play the Steelers (3–2–1) on Sunday.