Cleveland Browns WR Greg Little’s Bonehead Penalties Show Lack of Focus

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Updated: November 9, 2013

Greg Little played one of the best games he’s ever played as a pro. This past Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, the third-year receiver hauled in seven receptions for 122 yards; including 63 yards after the catch. Little was also flagged twice on Sunday, both for 15-yard penalties. For a player who has had his share of on and off the field incidents, one has to wonder when Little will put the childish behavior behind him.

The Ravens defense is known for being physical, even without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. This is something Little can attest two as he was body slammed on an incomplete pass by LB Daryl Smith and then was forced to leave the game with an injured shoulder (on a separate play) after being tackled out of bounds. However, physical play is not an excuse for losing your cool under pressure, as that’s just what the defense wants and what they were able to accomplish twice against Little.

Little’s first penalty came at the end of the first quarter on a run play to Willis McGahee. He engaged Ravens safety James Ihedigbo to block him and that resulted in a shoving match, with Little being pushed to the ground. While the officials didn’t see it and it wasn’t obvious at first, this picture shows that Ihedigbo has a hand around Little’s throat in a choking manner. Understandably, Little was upset and reacted by pulling Ihedigbo’s helmet off and throwing it.

If helmet tossing sounds familiar to you that’s because it should. Back in 2001, New Orleans Saints offensive lineman Kyle Turley endured a similar situation that resulted in him throwing the helmet of an opposing team’s player (Turley also made an obscene gesture). Turley was flagged, as well as ejected from the game. The Saints later fined him $25,000 for conduct detrimental to the team. Little’s helmet toss, while a bit more justified, still cost the team 15 yards. The Browns punted three plays later.

Later in the game, Little had just caught a pass from Jason Campbell and turned it into a 15-yard gain. Following the play, Ihedigbo and Little again engaged in a brief, heated exchange. Little initiated the contact out of bounds after the play was over by pushing Ihedigbo’s head away from him following the hit, which had a little extra something to it from Ihedigbo. If things would’ve stopped there everything would’ve been fine, however Ihedigbo pushed Little back who in turn gestured in a “come here” motion to Ihedigbo and was immediately flagged for taunting. All of this was done within five feet of two officials.

While this probably should’ve been a double flag, one on Little and one on Ihedigbo, that doesn’t excuse Little. Yes, it was a tiny gesture. However, this was a tiny gesture by a player who already had one personal foul against him, justified or not, and therefore had a bullseye on his back for the officials and for the Ravens defenders. That much was obvious because as soon as Little gestured, Ihedigbo turned around and walked away before the official even threw the flag. His job there was done and he knew it.

What’s worse about that particular play is that following Little’s catch the Browns were in the red zone. Little’s penalty put them back almost to the 30-yard line. While it ended up being a mute point because the Browns scored a touchdown a couple plays later, what if they didn’t? Better yet, what if this chain of events occurred in the fourth quarter on a potential game winning drive with the Browns down four points? Scoff at that hypothetical all you’d like, it’s not like the Browns have never been burned on late game mental lapses before.

These types of things aren’t new for Little. This is a player who has been plagued with drops his entire NFL career (28 drops in his career so far). This is a player who, in his first NFL game in 2011 (preseason) punted a ball into the stands after catching his first NFL touchdown. This is a player who in 2012, after dropping several passes, caught a first-down reception and posed like Usain Bolt not once but twice then, in the same game, celebrated a late touchdown with his team down multiple scores. This is a player who has criticized fans on social media and has had his share of other off the field incidents.

Hmm, does this seem like no big deal now? It seems more like a trend of mental lapses for Little.

If you put each incident in a vacuum then these things aren’t a huge deal. However, collectively Little has done more things that would be considered a distraction both on and off the field instead of doing the things he’s supposed to do–catch footballs and help his team win. The latter is especially true, and two personal fouls in one game doesn’t help your team win.

Little practices with a JUGs machine after every practice, catching hundreds of footballs a day in an effort to connect his hands, eyes and the football. The difference between a JUGs machine and a game is the mental aspect, and that’s something Little has yet to figure out in his NFL career.

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