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Don't step on the field or make contact with a player or an official, or the league will warn you not to do it again

The San Francisco 49ers received a warning - not a fine or a suspension - after a coach struck a Seahawks special teams player during a game this season. Several coaches appear to be allowed on the field during play, just not Mike Tomlin.

Geoff Burke

One doesn't need to be an expert in law to know warnings usually come before consequences.

If a driver is pulled over for speeding, that driver may be warned by the officer to slow down. If that same officer pulls over the same driver the next day, odds are good he's shelling out a few bucks.

There is no rhyme or reason behind warnings - or at least none that would stand as anything within standard operating procedure within the nation's police force. The NFL seems to operate similarly.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was fined $100,000 for stepping onto the field of play during Pittsburgh's 22-20 loss to Baltimore in Week 13. The league is currently holding further penalty in the form of a lost draft pick (thought to be one earned in the compensatory picks process) for his transgression.

Since then, video and photographic evidence shows at least three coaches from separate teams on the field of play, either considerably further on it than Tomlin was, or in some cases, making physical contact with an official during a play.

A special teams coach for the Miami Dolphins bumped into an official during Troy Polamalu's return of a missed field goal against the Miami Dolphins in Week 14 - just one week after Tomlin was fined and savaged by local and national media for his actions, not to mention the venom spewed by rival fans.

It should have resulted in a 15-yard penalty, which would have given the Steelers an untimed down and a 41-yard field goal attempt. The Steelers lost the game by three points.

Just sayin'.

San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh ran nearly to midfield during his team's divisional playoff game against Carolina, presumably imploring an official to look at the video screen at Bank of America Stadium in order to persuade him to challenge a call on the field. Harbaugh received neither a fine nor a penalty and the team did not receive a threat from the league regarding the unprecedented reduction of draft picks.

Interestingly, though, as Niners Nation pointed out this week, a coach of theirs, who knocks a member of Seattle's coverage team to the ground during a play, received a warning for his involvement with the action on the field.

That's two strikes against one team, three examples in which coaches appear to violate the alleged rule of being on the field, yet, none of them appear to even raise an eyebrow at the league office.

Except to incur the wrath of a warning, of course.

Oddly, it appears the only precedent the league is creating here is actually striking a player or official, or running several yards past the hash to yell at an official, is far less of a concern than standing still with half a foot over the sideline.

We're enjoying the thought of justification efforts from anti-Tomlin types around the intertubes, but it's really tough to see how this inconsistency can be viewed as anything other than the league just playing dead and hoping people don't notice.

This is the part where we'd normally say something bigger picture about how every coach should expect to be strictly regulated on where they stand on the sideline next year. But it doesn't seem that message is being sent to every team.