49ers benefit from obscure unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Bears

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Photo of Katie Dowd

Sep. 11, 2022Updated: Sep. 11, 2022 1:08 p.m.

No. 32 David Montgomery of the Chicago Bears runs for a first down in the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field on Sunday.

No. 32 David Montgomery of the Chicago Bears runs for a first down in the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field on Sunday.

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers were the beneficiary of an unusual unsportsmanlike conduct penalty Sunday as the Bears’ placeholder learned a hard lesson about the soggy turf at Soldier Field.

The newly laid grass was badly waterlogged after downpours drenched Chicago earlier that morning. Hoping to mitigate the wet turf, rookie punter Trenton Gill grabbed a towel to pat down the spot where he hoped to position the ball for a field goal attempt from the 29-yard line. Instead, Gill was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

The Bears got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for bringing a towel onto the field.

The holder was trying to dry off the area before a field goal attempt.pic.twitter.com/ptTTO08qyj

— ?“𝐡𝐞 ?’𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐍𝐞𝐰𝐬 (@sportingnews) September 11, 2022

“Unsportsmanlike conduct, Chicago No. 16. Brought a towel out on the field during a dead ball period to wipe the field down,” the referee ruled. “By rule, that’s illegal.”

The penalty surprised even NFL beat writers, some of whom expressed on Twitter that they’d never seen the towel call before.

“Punter Trenton Gill just got hit with an unsportsmanlike penalty for bringing a towel onto the field to wipe down the spot where the Bears were attempting to kick a field goal. Apparently this is illegal,” ESPN reporter Courtney Cronin tweeted.

“Well, that’s a new one,” added the Athletic’s Bears reporter Kevin Fishbain.

Did you know it's illegal to bring a towel onto the field to wipe down the spot as an NFL holder? Because I did not, nor did Bears rookie punter Trenton Gill.

— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) September 11, 2022

The penalty put Chicago out of field goal range. The Bears punted, giving the ball back to the 49ers shortly before halftime. The Niners went into the half with a 7-0 lead; they couldn't hold onto the slim advantage, though, falling 19-10 in rainy Chicago.

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