Blown call stokes ire of players, fans over replacements
By Alan Robinson
Published: Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012, 8:24 p.m.
Former All-Pro offensive tackle Kyle Turley is convinced the NFL not only isn't embarrassed by the controversy and criticism its replacement officials are generating, but is enjoying all this front-page attention.
“It's dramatic,” Turley said. “And the NFL loves drama. You don't think they love it that they're pushing Obama and Romney out of the headlines?”
There was plenty of drama — and plenty of debate — after a blown call Monday by a replacement official awarded a game-winning touchdown to Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate, who merely placed his hands partly on the ball that Green Bay defensive back M.D. Jennings intercepted on the final play.
While the NFL issued a statement Tuesday that Tate should have been called for pass interference, thus wiping out the score, the league said the Seahawks' 14-12 win would stand.
The call resulted in an estimated $150 million in bets to swing and, predictably, caused a firestorm in Green Bay, with linebacker Clay Matthews sending a Twitter message containing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's phone number. Packers guard T.J. Lang tweeted an expletive followed later by another message that “Any player or coach in Seattle that really thinks they won that game has zero integrity as a man and should be embarrassed.”
The NFL offices in New York received a reported 70,000 voice mail calls in protest.
Goodell and his staff spent 16 hours Saturday and Sunday trying to reach an agreement with the NFL Referees Association, but they're still stalemated on several issues, including pay and the league wanting to take away pension plans for the officials, who earn up to $150,000 a year for part-time work.
Steelers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said the end-zone ruling that there was simultaneous possession by Tate and Jennings was terrible.
And this is only Week 3. What if there is a Week 4, Week 5 and Week 6 with officials who previously worked mostly lower-level college games?
Side judge Lance Easley, a Santa Maria, Calif., banker who made the end-zone call Monday night, had no prior professional or major college experience.
“The NFL needs to do something,” safety Ryan Clark said. “You feel for the Green Bay Packers. You play 16 games, (and) to have one end like that, it's tough to take.”
Some Steelers players are glad their bye occurs this weekend because it means they might play one fewer game with the replacements. And while multiple players expressed sympathy and even respect for the replacements, it's evident they want officials like Ed Hochuli and Mike Carey back immediately.
NFL Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith issued a statement to the players in which he said, “The decision by the NFL owners to lock out the referees jeopardizes your health and safety. This decision to remove over 1,500 years of collective experience has simply made the workplace less safe. ... We are actively reviewing any and all possible actions to protect you.”
Cotchery said the players' chief concern is safety because “those calls that would be second nature to those guys that have been here aren't second nature to these guys … who are just off the street.”
Other players are surprised and disappointed that the NFL is allowing the integrity and quality of its game to be eroded by using replacement officials.
“The NFL talks about the integrity of the game and if they feel the replacement refs are still holding the integrity of the game intact, then what can you do?” Clark said.
Former Steelers linebacker James Farrior posted this Twitter message: “The gripe should be with the 32 owners that dictate what happens on Park Ave. They control the NFL, not Goodell.”
Steelers co-owner Dan Rooney was back in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, but he said it was a previously scheduled trip and had nothing to do with the escalating situation with the replacements.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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