Published September 17, 2012
TAMPA, Fla. – Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano didn't break any NFL kneel-down rules and still isn't apologizing for his aggressive tactics of going after the New York Giants when they were lined up in victory formation.
"To me it's a clean, hard, tough, finish-the-game play," Schiano said on Monday. "Some people disagree with that. That's certainly what makes the world go round. Everybody has opinions. I don't have any remorse or regret. It's clean hard football. It was no sneak attack. We were down ready to go, and that's how we do it all the time."
What the first-year NFL coach did against the Giants — instructing his defensive lineman to plow into the Giants' offensive line with Eli Manning lined up in victory formation with 5 seconds left on the clock in New York's 41-34 victory — sparked a debate on whether the Bucs crossed the line when it comes to kneel-down etiquette.
The NFL said the Bucs didn't break any league rules and doesn't plan to take any action against Schiano or the team.
"There were no penalties called on the play and it is not illegal for the defense to make contact on a kneel-down," league spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
What was less clear if any players might be subject to fines. There was pushing and shoving in the pile, and punches appeared to be thrown at the end of the play.
"Conduct that took place during the play that may warrant discipline will be reviewed under our normal process," Aiello said.
After Sunday's game, Coughlin said he felt such plays have no place in the NFL. Manning called it "a little bit of a cheap shot," and both said it unnecessarily increased the risk of injuries on the final play.
The Giants coach had little to say on the subject Monday, saying it was up to the league.
"I said what I said and I believe it to be accurate with regards to the number of years that I've been in this league, and I've said my piece about it," Coughlin said.
Reaction around the NFL was mixed, although a lot of people sided with the rookie head coach with one NFL victory over Coughlin, who has guided the Giants to two Super Bowl titles.
"The game wasn't over," Arizona defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "I don't see why Coughlin was ... complaining."
Schiano arrived in Tampa Bay after 11 years at Rutgers with a reputation for being a tough-nosed disciplinarian, and his players have bought into his philosophy of playing until the final whistle.
"I'll do anything for the coach. I believe in everything he coaches," Bucs defensive tackle Roy Miller said, adding that Schiano prepares the team "for every single thing that can come up in a game. ... That's our No. 1 advantage."
Schiano said the play against the Giants worked several times during his tenure at Rutgers.
"We've caused a fumble four times in the last five years with that play, and it's something that we practice," he said.
Asked if he would have asked his players to do the same thing against the Giants if it had not been a one-score game, the coach declined to speculate.
"I'm not going to deal in" what ifs, the coach said. "I'm the one who makes the decision to call that. We have that in our play book, and if I choose to call it, then I call it. If I don't, I don't."
The Giants also choose to kneel on the final play of the opening half at their own 8 yard-line, and the Bucs — leading 24-13 at that point — did not try to knock the ball loose from Manning.
"Think about the question. At the end of the game, if they throw the ball down and score, we lose anyway," Schiano said. "At halftime, if they do it they get seven points and the game goes on."
Dockett said whether he'd go after an opposing team taking a knee "depends on who you're playing against," citing NFC West division rivals San Francisco and Seattle as teams that would come after the Cardinals.
Quarterbacks Philip Rivers of San Diego and Christian Ponder of Minnesota said they aren't sure there's really any protocol for how defenses should approach kneel-down situations.
"I mean, the ball's getting snapped. If we're going to go back there and hand it off, you'd expect them to come back and get it," Rivers said.
"I know there are times when I've kind of held the ball a little bit like when we're trying to run a little more clock before I take a knee. That kind of gets defenses riled up: 'Go down, go down. If you're going to stand back there, we're coming,'" Rivers added.
"As a defense, you'd expect them to play until the very last second of the game," Ponder said. "Also, taking a knee, you want to be careful. As a quarterback, you want to feel safe. I don't know. It's a thin line. I see why Tampa Bay did it."
Miller said he didn't see future opponents targeting Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman when Tampa Bay finds itself kneeling at the end of a victory.
The Giants "just responded to what they perceived the situation. They didn't see it the way we saw it," Miller said. "We had a chance at the end of the game to get the ball back and it just didn't happen. But if you look at it the way you should, you understand and move on."
Tampa Bay travels to Dallas Sunday.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he was not concerned about the way Sunday's game ended.
"I don't want to speak to that situation. That was between Tampa Bay and the Giants. Certainly, there's a style of football they're trying to implement down there in Tampa and feel like that's in some ways indicative of how they want to play, how they're going to handle an end-of -the-game situation," Garrett said. "We're going to focus on our team and the things that we've got to get better at, and preparing for that ball game."
AP Sports Writers Tom Canavan in East Rutherford, N.J., Bernie Wilson in San Diego, Bob Baum in Phoenix, Dave Campbell in Minneapolis, Mike Marot in Indianapolis and Stephen Hawkins in Irving, Texas contributed to this report.