The replacement refs are gone in the NFL, but the real officials are bound to make mistakes.
They may have made one late in Sundays game between Carolina and Atlanta, when Falcons coach Mike Smith asked for a timeout with 5 seconds left despite his team not having any.
The Falcons, clinging to a two-point lead, had 10 men on the field for the Panthers final play a likely Hail Mary attempt from their 20. Smith motioned to an official for a timeout.
Initially, the official signaled timeout but took that back after realizing the team had none remaining.
Im not going to play with 10 guys on the field, Smith said. Im going to call timeout whether its an 80-yard or a 65-yard final play. You got to have 11 guys on the field. We did not have 11 guys on the field. We had 10.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera asked an official on the other side of the field why Atlanta was granted a timeout or at least enough of a break to get another man on the field.
I was told that theyre not supposed to give it to them, Rivera said. You can call all the timeouts you want, theyre not supposed to give it to you.
The referee should have not blown the whistle and they should have let the play go, and thats what I was told when I asked, Hey, isnt that a penalty asking for a fourth timeout when you dont have one?
The explanation was, No coach, you can call all the timeouts you want. We know you dont have any, and were not supposed to give it to you.
There is no rule for the exact situation the Falcons faced in calling a fourth timeout, but the NFL rule book states that attempting to call a timeout a team doesnt have to freeze a kicker will be ruled a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Rule 13.3.1u: If an attempt is made to call a timeout in (this situation), the officials shall not grant a timeout, play will continue, and a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct shall be enforced after the down is completed.
Im not sure it makes a difference, Rivera said. The bad thing is they had a three-man pass rush and got a sack off it.
Neblett returns: Defensive tackle Andre Neblett returned to the team this week after serving his four-game suspension for a testing positive for a banned substance.
Neblett plans to practice with the team this week, and Rivera and his staff will evaluate the third-year player before deciding what roster move to make. He has not counted against the teams 53-man limit, and the Panthers have a one-week grace period to decide what to do.
Weve got the exemption, so well see how it goes, Rivera said. We dont have to make that decision till later in the week.
Carolina brought in Dwan Edwards from Buffalo in the preseason to help fill the gap on the defensive line. Edwards is tied for the team lead in sacks at 3.5 and has provided a push the Panthers didnt have in the preseason.
Neblett was diagnosed with hypertension and high blood pressure during the preseason, causing him to miss the latter part of training camp. He said Monday that high blood pressure runs in his family.
Injury watch: No. 3 wide receiver Louis Murphy tweaked his ankle against the Falcons, and on Monday he was wearing a boot on his right foot.
Murphy, who has five catches for 78 yards this season, said he should play Sunday against the Seahawks.
I just rolled it, he said. Im fine. Ill be ready to go.
Linebacker Thomas Davis and running back Jonathan Stewart did not have any setbacks Sunday, Rivera said. Cornerback Chris Gamble and Jon Beason are both dealing with sore shoulders that they played through on Sunday.
I think in some situations, there seems to be a little bit of infringement on the way hes played in the past, Rivera said of Beason. But there are some things you look at and watch the guy do, and you just know that hes good at it. You just hope that it doesnt hit at the wrong time. Hes been solid. Hes done a good job.
Upbeat Adams: Rookie return man Joe Adams said when he found out two hours before Sundays game that hed be inactive, he wasnt too surprised.
A fourth-round pick in last years draft, Adams muffed a punt and fumbled a kickoff against the Giants in Week 3. Kealoha Pilares reclaimed his starting position at kickoff returner, and Captain Munnerlyn was the punt returner.
I didnt really expect it to happen, but I wasnt disappointed or anything because the guys that went out there did a good job, Adams said.
Adams has shown this season that he likes to go laterally before going down the field. That inclination, along with taking his eyes off the ball last week, made Carolina go in a different direction against the Falcons.
The biggest thing really is when you watch the way Kealoha hit it, he hits it downhill. Kealoha is a straight-line guy who does the one cut and goes. Youd love a kid like Joe Adams to do that because of his ability to really at any point break one, Rivera said. We went with Captain because Captain runs bigger. Hes more stout, and hes harder to bring down. He has almost the same mentality, too. Catch it and get what we can. That was the attitude we went in with.
Newton commercial: Newton pokes fun at his trophy collection in ESPNs latest This is SportsCenter spot, which will begin airing Tuesday.
In the 30-second spot, Newton adds the Golden Water Cooler to his trophy-filled cubicle in ESPNs offices in Bristol, Conn. He filmed it in February, and you can view the video on our Inside the Panthers blog at blogs.charlotte.com/panthers/.