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T.J. Ward to the NFL: 'When did this become a penalty?'

T.J. Ward is calling out the NFL. Let's see if he has a case.

There was some shoddy refereeing in Sunday's Denver Broncos game against the Indianapolis Colts. Indy wasn't flagged until the Broncos had already accrued four penalties (including two personal fouls). One of those personal fouls drew the ire of many Broncos fans, as it extended a Colts drive and allowed Andrew Luck to score the game's first touchdown.

That penalty drew the ire of the penalized, as well. T.J. Ward took to social media to call out the NFL and what he thought was a bogus personal foul penalty.

"When did this become a penalty? I must play too hard! Maybe I just gotta go lower!" Ward said on Instagram.

@nfl when did this become a penalty?! I must play too hard! Maybe I just gotta go lower! #bossup #wardboy

A photo posted by TJ Ward (@bossward43) on

Ward is right. He needs to go lower. Everything else about that caption is not right.

According to the NFL rulebook's description of unnecessary roughness, Ward was correctly flagged. It's not obvious from the picture Ward posted, but after watching replays a few times, it's clear Ward's helmet first made contact with T.Y. Hilton's helmet.

That could be flagged in one of two ways, in fact: helmet-to-helmet or defenseless receiver. The refs literally had to choose which personal foul to give Ward.

Ward wasn't dirty on this play. He can't help that Hilton lowered his helmet.

Ward wasn't dirty on this play. He lowered his shoulder and intended to hit Hilton in the chest. He can't help it that Hilton lowered his head too. But when it comes to gray areas like this, the referees will defer to the letter-of-the-law more often than not.

What is concerning is Ward's reaction. Ward then followed that up with this Tweet, which is ill-timed to say the least:

Please don't be dirty, T.J. Ward

The Broncos are getting a lot of flak for being dirty after their Week 9 loss, particularly after Aqib Talib appeared to intentionally gouge an opponent's eye in front of a referee and CBS cameras. A Vine of Von Miller "putting his knee on the throat of a downed opponent" also went viral, even though that caption is far from accurate.

Broncos players told media after the loss they suspect referees are giving them extra attention. With tweets like Ward's, can you blame them?

So hopefully Ward is kidding about the "being dirty," because the Broncos are getting a reputation for it. And that means refs aren't going to call a fair game.

And as Talib proved, "dirty" is different from "tough and smart." Dirty is dumb.

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