A slip of the words will ultimately now draw a lot of additional scrutiny to three things already making the news: ESPN and politics, roughing-the-passer new rules, and Jason Witten’s rocky start as the Monday Night Football color commentator.
Questionable roughing-the-passer calls have been the hot topic in the NFL through the first three weeks of the 2018 regular season, with two calls against Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews really standing out. The new “body weight” rule was implemented after Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone last year, and the new rule likely caused Miami Dolphins defensive end William Hayes to tear his ACL (so that he wouldn’t land on Raiders QB Derek Carr with his body weight).
During Monday night’s Steelers-Buccaneers game, there were a few more questionable roughing-the-passer calls.
And Witten was very critical of the new rule and questionable calls. The former Dallas Cowboys’ tight end even went as far to call the changes “left wing.”
“They’ve just gone too far with that rule. I knew they wanted to make it about the health and safety, and protecting these quarterbacks. But it just seems like we went a little bit to the left wing on that, you know?”
There are probably better ways to criticize the rule changes than bringing politics into it, and ESPN likely feels that way. New ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro told employees in March that he “does not believe [ESPN is] a political organization,” and recently explained the network’s decision to not show the national anthem before Monday Night Football (which then drew criticism from President Trump).
However, when reached for comment, ESPN’s Bill Hofheimer said that Witten’s comment “had nothing to do with politics.”