Danny Smith Absolves Shamarko Thomas’ Special Teams “Blunder”

During his Tuesday press conference, Mike Tomlin was hard on Shamarko Thomas after his failure to pick up the football almost led to a Jordan Norwood 71 yard touchdown. A play that would’ve undoubtedly swung the momentum of the game.

“I’m sure he’s very aware of the rule. I didn’t have a conversation with him because I didn’t deem is necessary. It’s like acknowledging that the sky is blue. He needs to pick the ball up and hand it to the official.”

Danny Smith sung a different tune talking to Bob Labriola in today’s Coordinator Corner. 

“It would’ve come back. He was out of bounds with the football,” Smith said to Labriola, kicking off the discussion over Thomas’ actions, or lack of.

“Shamarko had the ball out of bounds when he was touching it. So the play was there. They ended up getting a four yard return out of it. So that was the end of that.”

While Smith noted it is “good practice” to pick the ball up and hand it to the official, he didn’t seem as concerned with the “mistake” as Tomlin did on Tuesday.

Later in the interview, Smith complimented Thomas’ job in making the tackle on the Denver Broncos’ kickoff reverse, leading Labriola to quip Thomas went “1 for 2” on the day. Smith responded that he’s moved past those plays.

“Guys like you bring up that old stuff. That play don’t mean nothing. [Shamarko] set the ball out of bounds, they got four yards on that punt return. That’s a very successful punt. That other stuff didn’t happen. People can talk about it, people can write, and bring that up in interviews, that stuff didn’t happen. I’ve been off that play since the minute that occurred. That play is non-existent. You can’t find it written anywhere.”

As much as I love Danny Smith, and have unabashedly proclaimed that time and time again, these are some strange comments. Smith at worst, danced around blaming Thomas and at best, praised him for getting out of bounds.

But it’s not as if Thomas made a full, conscious effort to take the ball out of bounds. His left big toe was on the chalk, an accident, albeit a lucky one, than anything intentional. Smith even admitted the smart play is to pick the ball up so it can’t be returned and Thomas made no effort to do so, or even hold his grip onto the football until the official downed it.

Smith even also said that the ref downs the ball, not the player, implying extra detail to ensuring there was a whistle ending the play, which there wasn’t on Norwood’s return.

There certainly seems to be a disconnect in the way Tomlin and Smith evaluated the play, and it isn’t the first time we’ve gotten a peek into how those two differ.

Here’s the play again. You be the judge of what to make of Smith’s comments. I’m sure I know which direction you’re already leaning.

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