It was an odd stance for Bill O’Brien to take.
A disciplinarian. Defending lapses in discipline.
But there the Houston Texans head coach was on Sunday, taking an understanding tone when talking about safety D.J. Swearinger’s big personality, and two flags that flew in their 32-7 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday because of it.
“You don’t want guys to be penalized in ways that obviously hurt the team,” he said.
“But our guys last night were juiced up. They were excited. They couldn’t wait to play. It was a home crowd and they were excited, and I think football is an emotional game.”
This, from the guy who’s sent his starting quarterback off to run laps during practice.
Swearinger, a second round pick in 2013, was twice flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on Saturday. Once, for apparently being too excited after a pass breakup, turning and high-fiving Josh Victorian.
“That one call there, I think they were talking to each other, and the official there made the call and that was the call,” O’Brien said.
It was a pretty weak call, but one that was nevertheless one of four on Atlanta’s only scoring drive of the night. Exactly the kind of call you’d expect O’Brien, based on what we’ve seen from him, to have little tolerance for. Especially since Swearinger drew laundry again later, on Andre Hal’s 64-yard interception return for a touchdown, when the sideline was flagged as Swearinger and cornerback Kareem Jackson bolted down the sideline to cheer on a fellow defensive back.
O’Brien spoke like he enjoys the fire that Swearinger’s bravado adds to his team, but needs to help him learn how to reel it in a bit.
“We’ve got to do a better job of understanding the rule there and understanding how we need to deal with that when we were on the field,” O’Brien said. “But I think our guys played with a lot of energy and that was good to see.”
Which is the way he’s talking about it now, after the team’s second game of four that don’t count. Should it happen in any of the 16 that do, let alone in any meaningful way, it will be interesting to see if O’Brien shows the same patience.
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