It may be the stuff of Deflategate and Spygate, or it may not. But with the NFL still wobbling in an ongoing perception crisis — it’s hardly a trusted American institution — fans and media deserve to know what took place at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday.
We’re still waiting.
To recap, the Baltimore Ravens complained about the live television feed that was displayed on the large Levi’s video boards during their placekicks. This was confirmed not only by a league source in the press box, but when former NFL referee Jerry Markbreit, working for the league in a supervisory capacity in the same press box, spoke loudly on the phone in reporting that the live video feed was in violation of league rules.
The message was relayed to league authorities in New York by Markbreit. The San Francisco Examiner asked questions about Markbreit’s loud phone conversation, heard by many in the press box. Typically, shoulders shrugged. Lips were zipped. Emails and phone calls went unanswered.
Finally on Monday, 49ers communications executive Bob Lange told the Examiner the organization would defer to the NFL on the matter. And a league spokesman, who didn’t deny that a Ravens complaint was made, said the league would not comment because dialogue between the teams and league office is confidential.
Why the silence? Isn’t this the kind of nonresponse and lack of transparency that has landed the NFL in various public-relations crises in recent years? Wouldn’t it serve the league to explain what happened rather than allow fingers to be pointed in any number of directions?
It’s no small sin if a team is airing live TV feeds to distract opposing kickers in violation of league rules. The normally dead-on Justin Tucker, though denying he was affected by the big screen after he was summoned for a quick locker-room meeting by two Ravens officials, did miss a field-goal attempt Sunday.
Of course, the NFL doesn’t want another “gate,” especially one attached to the Super Bowl 50 site. But if ethical standards of fair play are being compromised by the 49ers, it’s another major scandal for a league that can’t avoid trouble.
SEAHAWKS WEEK: The 49ers have a short week of practice before their game against the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night, but they can’t pick a better time to face the reigning NFC champs.
The Seahawks still look hungover from their self-inflicted Super Bowl loss. They blew leads late in their last two games.
“Any time you play Seattle, it’s a big deal,” coach Jim Tomsula said. “I wouldn’t expect that we’ve got to get anybody pumped up for this game.”
And get this: There even could be a Reggie Bush sighting at Levi’s.
“Yeah, right now, I’m very optimistic on where Reggie is,” Tomsula said. “From the information that I’ve gotten, yeah, I feel good about it.”
In other words, Bush’s status has been upgraded to doubtful. Which wouldn’t be good, as workhorse ballcarrier Carlos Hyde has a foot injury that could linger all season. That explains why the 49ers brought in veteran Pierre Thomas for a tryout Monday.
MORE TOMSULA SPEAK: Add another word to Jim Tomsula’s Pittsburghese Dictionary for Beginners.
Asked about the loss against the Seahawks last Thanksgiving, when cornerback Richard Sherman ate turkey on the field in celebration, Tomsula said, “I didn’t remember that until you just brought that up. Yeah, I don’t really pay much attention to the pomp and stance around it.”
That’s “pomp and stance” as in “pomp and circumstance” for most of the rest of us.
STAR TREATMENT: Kenneth Acker learned firsthand what’s like to be a rookie cornerback Sunday, when Baltimore bully Steve Smith gave him a subtle push to gain separation on a touchdown pass.
“You should ask him what happened,” Acker said with a wry smile. “My back was turned, so I don’t know what happened. Yeah, I felt something, but I don’t know. [The referees] said he didn’t push me, so I guess he didn’t.”
Afterward, Smith said Acker hadn’t been in the NFL long enough to get the call.
“I’m going to look into it, actually,” Acker said. “Maybe one of these days, I’ll figure it out. Hopefully, its not when it’s too late where I’m getting the benefit of the doubt.”
LIKE OLD TIMES: Balls is an Acker backer. The young man doesn’t participate in social media. Really.
Acker swore off Twitter and Instagram after he was drafted, when his mother Tina saw him tweet on his cellphone one day and suggested that he get on with his life.
“My mom asked me why I was doing that for, and I couldn’t give here an answer,” Acker said.
Now, Acker likes to read, draw, play video games and listen to music. Imagine that.
WASTED ENERGY: As part of its procedure to evaluate potential franchise shifts, the NFL will conduct three-hour public hearings next week in Oakland, St. Louis and San Diego.
So if Raiders fans want to know why they’re expected to support a perennial noncontender under the threat of relocation, they can direct their questions to commissioner Roger Goodell’s executive staff, not that they’ll get any direct answers. It should be some scene a week from Thursday at the Paramount
Theater. All Darth Raiders are welcome.
SO LONG, AGAIN: Former pitcher Barry Zito announced his retirement on Monday. Again. This time he did so in The Players’ Tribune, which has become the place where careers go to die.
Zito did have some poignant words about his days as a Giant in the 2008 season, which he called “the toughest of my life so far.”
“I was being told by strangers in public places just how terrible I was — my own fans in San Francisco yelling obscenities to my face while I was in the dugout,” Zito wrote. “I even found myself ringing my mother at times because I was literally losing my mind and needed five minutes of solace with someone who understood me. But that year taught me something: If there was still a reason to smile at certain points throughout those painful days, and if everything I thought had defined me as a person was crumbling down and yet I was still standing, then maybe what I thought defined me truly did not. I came to realize that I was defining myself through my achievements on the field and through the opinions of other people. In reality, that was just the surface of who I really was.”
Guess the $127 million wasn’t all that.
TIME TO HIT THE ROAD: One day after a health scare, a “chipper” Pat Haden met with the USC football coaches Sunday. That the athletic director would be so upbeat after a 41-31 spanking by rival Notre Dame was yet another hint that the 64-year-old should retire into the sunset.
On Saturday, Haden complained of dizziness and dropped to a knee, something Trojans quarterbacks don’t do much of in the final seconds any more.