Monday's NFL: Browns coach backs Odell Beckham after incident

Associated Press
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) runs over Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Andrew Billings (99) during the second half.

Cleveland — Browns coach Freddie Kitchens has Odell Beckham’s back. He’s more worried about the NFL protecting the star’s neck.

Kitchens said Monday that he wishes the league’s officials were more consistent calling penalties in the aftermath of Beckham being choked by Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey during Cleveland’s 40-25 win on Sunday.

Beckham got into a heated fight with Humphrey, who pinned the three-time Pro Bowler to the ground and had his hands around his throat before being pulled away.

Both players were assessed personal fouls, but neither was ejected. Kitchens felt Humphrey should have been thrown out, but Shawn Hochuli said the actions didn’t rise to the level of a “disqualifying foul.”

“Here’s my big deal with that: I just want to have consistency on how we’re going to deal with things, OK?” Kitchens said during a conference call. “I don’t like seeing our player on the field and someone’s hands around his throat. I don’t like that. I don’t think that needs to be in our game and I would be the first to say that if it was our guy doing it.

“And I want everybody held to the same standard. That’s all I want.”

Following the game, Kitchens indicated he was going to call head of officiating Al Riveron before the Browns flew home from Baltimore. He changed his mind.

“It’s against the rules to call before 9 a.m. I want to make it very clear that I did not call last night,” Kitchens said.

“But we’re still in the process of talking through some things with that.”

He didn’t say if he had spoken with Riveron.

“I don’t know what you get fined for and what you don’t get fined for so I’m not going to even answer that,” he said. “But I can promise you this: Hopefully I’ll have a better understanding of what we want it to look like on game day.”

Beckham, who has a history of scrapping with defenders, was blocking Humphrey when things got out of control. Humphrey overpowered Beckham and had him in a vulnerable position before others intervened.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh wasn’t nearly as opinionated on the matter as Kitchens.

Harbaugh didn’t condone Humphrey’s behavior, but he didn’t condemn it either.

“I don’t know about an ejection,” Harbaugh said. “I just try to focus on what I’m going to say to our player, because you can’t control the way the officials see it. I’m not exactly sure why (Humphrey) got the foul, but I’m sure they’ll tell us what they thought they saw.”

Monday's game

(At) Pittsburgh 27, Cincinnati 3: Mason Rudolph threw for 229 yards and two touchdowns to pick up his first victory while filling in for Ben Roethlisberger as the Steelers easily handled the Bengals.

Rudolph completed 24 of 28 passes, most of them quick hitters that allowed the Steelers to control the clock. He connected with James Conner on a delayed screen for a 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter, then broke the game open with a 43-yard heave to rookie Diontae Johnson midway through the third as the Steelers (1-3) won their ninth straight over the Bengals (0-4).

Jaylen Samuels ran for 26 yards and a touchdown, caught eight passes for 57 yards and was even credited with three completions — in reality “pop” passes to teammates in motion that traveled all of three feet — while working out of the Wildcat formation as Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner opened up his playbook to help the Steelers avoid just their second 0-4 start in 51 years.

Extra point

Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict was suspended Monday for the rest of the season for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Colts tight end Jack Doyle, the most severe punishment in NFL history for an on-field infraction.

Burfict will miss the final 12 games of the season and any playoff games for “repeated violations of unnecessary roughness rules.” He has been suspended three times in his career for hits violating the league’s player safety rules.

Burfict has the right under the collective bargaining agreement to appeal the punishment in the next three days.

He had one of his previous suspensions reduced from five games to three games on an appeal in 2017.

“There were no mitigating circumstances on this play,” NFL Vice President of football operations Jon Runyan said in a letter to Burfict announcing the suspension. “Your contact was unnecessary, flagrant and should have been avoided. For your actions, you were penalized and disqualified from the game.