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Dean Blandino: Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber was defenseless

By Bill Bradley, contributing editor

In his weekly visit on NFL Network's "Around The League," vice president of officiating Dean Blandino focused on how the punter is always a defenseless player.

Specifically, Blandino explained that Cincinnati Bengals punter Kevin Huber, who suffered a broken jaw Sunday night on a hit from Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Terence Garvin, shouldn't have been blocked in the head on the play no matter where he was.

"Huber, he's a punter and the key is he's defenseless throughout the down," Blandino said. "So even though he's pursuing the play, he still gets defenseless-player protection. You can't hit him in the head or neck, and you can't use the crown or forehead parts of the helmet to the body.

"You'll see Garvin line him up. Now he can block him, but he has to block him legally, shoulder to the body. This is an illegal block. It should have been a flag for a 15-yard penalty."

Blandino said this will be a point of emphasis with referees this week to remind them that all kickers are defenseless players at all times.

"We have to watch the punter, he's defenseless," he said. "And we want to flag hits like that."

Blandino also looked at an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree for throwing the ball into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive huddle. The call came on the same play as an offside penalty against the Buccaneers and caused an unusual event for the referees.

"The referee was actually in the middle of his announcement when this happened," Blandino said. "What we did was enforce the five-yard penalty against Tampa from the line of scrimmage. We went from the 31-yard line, 5 yards to the 36-yard line and then 15 yards against San Francisco, all the way back to the 21-yard line, which is an unusual enforcement. Usually you would combine those two fouls, but here because one happened so far after the play, we enforced them both."

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