Bengals punter may have broken neck, refs may have to explain another blunder

Written By David Steele
Kevin Huber-121613-AP-FTR.jpg
(AP Photo)

The more time that passes since Steelers special teamer Terence Garvin's brutal hit on Bengals punter Kevin Huber Sunday night, the worse the news gets — for both of them, as well as for the NFL and its officials.

Garvin may face a fine for the hit, which cleared the way for Antonio Brown's 68-yard punt return early in Pittsburgh's rout of Cincinnati. ProFootballTalk.com reported Monday that Garvin is subject to being disciplined — and likely should have been flagged on the play — because kickers and punters are considered defenseless players.

UPDATE: NFL says hit on Huber was illegal

MORE: AFC North hunt | Playoff scenarios | Romo's struggles

The bad news for Huber is that, according to ESPN.com, he also suffered a cracked vertebrae in his neck along with a broken jaw and a bloody mouth. Post-game X-rays revealed the cracked vertebrae, the report said, citing sources. The NFL is reviewing the play, the report added. Ed Hochuli headed the officiating crew in the game.

Garvin clearly caught Huber unaware as Brown ran past them both, and while Garvin did execute an otherwise sound block, the force of his helmet into Huber's face mask was such that it left Huber down for a long time. He was helped off the field with a towel jammed in his mouth to stop the bleeding.

If Garvin is fined, the news will surely be accompanied by the latest admission of a blown officiating call by the NFL office. It's literally become a weekly occurrence. Last week, it acknowledged Jeff Triplette's blunder in giving the Bengals a touchdown after their runner had clearly been down by contact by a Colts tackler.

The week before, it was Triplette again, whose crew messed up the downs on the final possession of the Giants' win in Washington. Also, they admitted that the crew at the Thanksgiving game in Baltimore failed to flag Steelers coach Mike Tomlin for standing on the sideline during a Ravens' kickoff return.

And two weeks before that, the league was forced to address how officials handled the end of Carolina's win over New England, when a flag was thrown on the final play as the Patriots were intercepted in the end zone, then the flag was picked up without an explanation given until long after they had left the field.

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