The opening drive of Sunday's game against Kansas City set the tone for a frustrating day.
The Ravens stopped the Chiefs on third down to force a punt, but defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan hit quarterback Alex Smith as he scrambled out of bounds on the Ravens' sideline. Smith had a foot out of bounds when Jernigan hit him, and the officials flagged the second-year defender for unnecessary roughness.
The penalty kept the drive alive for Kansas City, and the Chiefs scored three plays later to take a 7-0 lead.
Jernigan explained his perspective on the play after the 34-14 defeat, saying he tried to ensure that Smith didn't tip-toe along the sidelines for a big gain.
"I was running to the ball and I saw the quarterback running up the sideline. To me, it doesn't look as if this guy is noticeably trying to slow down and step out of bounds," Jernigan said. "If you keep running on the sideline, I'm going to hit you. I don't care who you are.
"Unless you make it obvious that you're getting out [of bounds], because if I don't hit you and if he keeps running up the sideline, then it's going to be cameras in my face for why I didn't hit the guy. You let the quarterback run for an 80-yard touchdown. So I'm just doing what I feel like I need to do to help the team win."
Jernigan said the challenge with that kind of play is that he has to determine whether the ball carrier is willing to give himself up and go out of bounds. Smith was clearly out when Jernigan made contact, but the defensive lineman felt like he had already committed at that point.
"It's tough, but it would be easier if people understood that if you don't make it noticeable you're going out, you're going to get hit," Jernigan said. "Point blank."
Jernigan has drawn three personal foul penalties on the season. The Ravens pulled him to the sidelines for a play after the penalty, but he went back in and finished the game.
"I took him out for a play and put him back in," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "I don't need to justify that. Timmy Jernigan is a guy that I've talked to about that. He understands where we're at. I made the decision to keep him in the game."
Harbaugh was asked about Jernigan again Monday, and he stood up for his defensive lineman.
"Timmy has been a dominant player for us the last few weeks, and no more so than he was yesterday," Harbaugh said. "He played with a motor that is pretty hard to find at any level of football. I feel like he is determined to ramp it up every single week to play even harder.
"He made a decision on the sideline. He didn't have a good angle to see whether Alex Smith's foot was down or not. Alex Smith is the type of quarterback that is going to get every inch he can along the sideline, so you got to run over there and push him out or he'll continue to run right up the sideline. You have to make a decision there – and I think he'll be able to do that with experience – that when you get right there he's going to put his foot down. He's an experienced quarterback. You get right there. You get close to him. You let him smell your breath, so to speak. And he steps out of bounds, and you don't hit him."