NFL hits Mora with $25K fine for cell use

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Jim Mora was contrite after the NFL fined him $25,000 for using a cell phone on the sidelines during an overtime loss at Tampa Bay two weeks ago.

"Expensive phone call," Mora said Thursday. "Consider that a lesson learned."

With the Falcons and Buccaneers tied 24-24 late in overtime on Dec. 24, Mora knew Dallas had won at Carolina and that Washington was leading the Giants by 15 points.

Victories by the Cowboys and Redskins earlier that day meant that an Atlanta loss would eliminate the Falcons from the NFC playoff race, but Mora was unsure if they could remain in contention by tying Tampa Bay.

He used a cell phone in an attempt to contact team officials and seek clarification on Atlanta's status.

After the Bucs won 27-24, Mora lost his temper during an interview with the Falcons' flagship radio station when he asked to explain why he decided to punt with Atlanta facing fourth-and-2 from its 24 and 1:08 remaining in overtime.

Mora was in a room next to the visiting team's locker room when he answered the question that analyst Dave Archer posed from the radio booth several floors above. Following his response, Mora said he ripped off the headset and slammed it down.

"I'm a passionate guy," Mora said. "I'm passionate about winning, about my family, my friends, the Atlanta Falcons and about us being the best. Sometimes passion spills over into emotion, and it wasn't as big an incident as it has been portrayed to be. I have apologized to anyone I had offended and vowed that I will manage my emotions much better."

Team president and general manager Rich McKay acknowledged that he and Falcons owner Arthur Blank spoke to Mora regarding the outburst. McKay added, however, that the coach faced no disciplinary actions for his behavior.

The 44-year-old Mora promised to be more mindful of his actions.

"It's tough," Mora said. "I'm not going to lie to you. It's very, very tough. Just like every team in this league, we all work hard. We put a lot into it and we've become obsessed with it for months on end. When it ends in a way -- especially when you have high expectations like we did, we do and we always will have -- it's difficult. But that's life, and you have to learn to get over it."

The NFL fined Mora under a rule adopted 10 months ago, stating that cell phones and other forms of communication not sanctioned by the league were banned on the field during games.

Mora was fined $5,000 less than New Orleans receiver Joe Horn, who pulled out a cell phone he had placed in the padding of a goal post at the Louisiana Superdome during a 2003 game against the Giants.

After scoring a touchdown and celebrating with teammate Michael Lewis, Horn pretended to talk on the phone. Officials quickly penalized the Saints 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct, and the league later fined him $30,000.

The NFL didn't consider Mora's violation as premeditated.

Before New Orleans' season finale last week at Tampa Bay, Horn called for Mora, whose father coached the Saints from 1986-96, to receive an equivalent fine.

"I want $30,000," said Horn. "I'm not trying to player-hate coach Mora, but it shouldn't be a double-standard league. A player gets fined, then a coach should get fined under any circumstances.

"Cell phones are prohibited in the NFL. So I think coach Mora should be fined $30,000 like I was," he said.