No matter how much you try to tell yourself it doesn’t matter, when you’re at the doorstep of accomplishing something remarkable, you’re likely going to succumb to human nature and start caring. Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt doesn’t set goals for himself to hit certain sack totals, treating every play made as helping toward the greater goal, but even he acknowledged when he entered the finale with the chance to set the NFL sack record, he was invested.
And it didn’t help that there was some uncertainty going on. During the game, he was credited with only one sack, which was enough to tie the record, but he also had half a sack negated by penalty. On another play in which he tackled the quarterback and forced a fumble, he was not credited with a sack.
Later on, Watt told reporters that he was looking at his phone at halftime to see what was going on and if he had gotten or broken the record, perhaps if there was any word on potential scoring changes. We talked about it last month, and talked about how players are not allowed by league rule to access their phones 90 minutes before games and until the game is over. Turns out the league was listening.
“Well, I’m not allowed to have my phone on me 90 minutes before the game. That’s an NFL-mandated rule”, Watt said on the Pardon My Take podcast recently. “I received a fine for saying it, jokingly, in an interview this year, so, just a little stab”.
He was answering a question about how he gets amped up before a game and what music he listens to, but there you go. Watt claimed to have done something that is a violation of the rules, and he got fined for having said it. Only, he claims he didn’t actually do it.
“I jokingly said that I checked my phone at halftime of the Baltimore game, and the NFL took it as a real saying and fined me $10,000”, he said. “It’s just one of those things where I’m not allowed to have my phone on me at all 90 minutes before the game, or during halftime”.
Which, sucks for him, of course, but it’s not like he can’t afford it, and that money goes to charity anyway. Still, the whole thing is sort of funny, and it really doesn’t even matter whether or not he actually looked at his phone. Of course, I sure wouldn’t mind being able to tell a funny story about how I lost $10,000 and it didn’t even remotely affect my life beyond getting a story out of it.
As you know, the league ultimately ruled that the quarterback tackle and forced fumble was indeed not a sack but rather an aborted play, and so he only got the one sack for the game, giving him 22.5 on the season and tying Michael Strahan for the most ever in a season. It was still enough to earn him 42 out of the 50 total votes for Defensive Player of the Year, anyway.