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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' Schiano stands behind field goal shift, despite penalty

Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 06:39 PM

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano remained at odds Monday with the NFL and its rule book regarding the legality of defenders shifting while lining up to defend a field goal.

Schiano has no plans, though, to continue fighting what he fears would be a losing battle.

While standing by his claim he called a legal play, Schiano said he'll scrap the shift to prevent the result it created Sunday, when an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty helped determine the Bucs' fate in a 35-28 loss to the Saints.

"The fact it got called Sunday, I don't know if you should be looking for that anymore because that would be downright stubborn,'' Schiano said. "But as far as I'm concerned it was a legal play.''

The Bucs were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when officials ruled they audibled a shift of their formation during a 51-yard Garrett Hartley field-goal try, which is in violation of NFL rules.

Those rules allow for a physical shift on such plays but say teams cannot use "words designed to disconcert an offensive team at the snap," which several Bucs players admitted doing by using the words "shift'' and "move.''

Schiano countered by saying the Bucs used the very same play and were not penalized for it during their game against the Redskins three weeks ago, though he did not say whether an audible was used.

"We did it in the Washington game right before the half, exact same thing,'' Schiano said. "One time we went left to right; the other time we went right to left. But other than that, it's the exact same thing.''

During the Washington game, which was the first worked by regular officials this season after their lockout ended, the Bucs shifted just before center Justin Snow snapped the ball on a 57-yard Billy Cundiff field goal try.

Cundiff missed and no flag was thrown for unsportsmanlike conduct. As a result, Schiano said he was confident the play was legal and worth using again against the Saints.

"You can add me to the list,'' Schiano said when told fans were confused by the call. "Quite frankly, it's a legal play. Like I said, I know what we do and I feel very comfortable with it.''

One reason the penalty might have been called was because the officials knew it might be coming. Several Saints players said after the game they alerted officials to the Bucs' use of audibles, which most found odd.

"I think that's just what they're being taught," Saints guard Jahri Evans told USA Today. "And that's what we told the refs. I haven't seen that in a long time. I played Division II (ball), and they didn't even do that in DII.''

The shift wasn't the only play Schiano was still trying to defend Monday. After the Bucs failed to score on four plays from the Saints 1-yard line late in the third quarter, he was also left to explain the play-calling on that sequence.

After a 95-yard pass to Vincent Jackson gave the Bucs a first down, Tampa Bay ran LeGarrette Blount on three straight plays, then tried a run-pass option play with quarterback Josh Freeman.

The three runs by Blount – who lost a yard on the first try, gained it back on the second and was stuffed for no gain on the third – have elicited the most questions, because Blount struggled as a goal-line back before.

In 2010, he failed to score what would have been a last-minute, game-tying touchdown against Atlanta when he gained 2 yards on a third-and-goal play from the Falcons 4 and nothing on a fourth-and-goal play from the Falcons 1.

Schiano said his decision to go with Blount in that situation was based on the success Blount had in similar situations against Miami during the preseason and Washington three weeks ago.

"I think it was after the preseason that we made (the decision to use Blount as a goal-line back), and then we kept going with it,'' Schiano said. "But all these decisions, whether it's who's playing receiver, who's playing running back, kick returner, front line – doesn't matter.

"Everything is always being constantly evaluated and we'll continue to do that. As you have a larger body of results to make a decision off of, I hope that we make the best decisions with more information.''

rcummings@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7979 Twitter: RCummingsTrib