Colts admit authority of replacement officials is being challenged
A questionable call on the last play of Monday Night Football has the NFL replacement officials under intense scrutiny. The Indianapolis Colts head into a bye week, learning to adjusting to the new men in stripes.
Colts veteran defensive end Cory Redding took the high road when asked if he is concerned about the state of the game with replacement officials.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again: coaches coach, players play, and officials officiate," said Redding. "That's where I stand."
An apparent interception by the Green Bay Packers on a desperation pass was ruled simultaneous possession and therefore a Seattle Seahawks touchdown. One official in Seattle signaled interception, another touchdown. A touchdown was ruled and upheld after replay review. The disputed call gave the Seahawks a 14-12 victory.
That was the latest, most controversial call made by officials with no previous NFL experience before this season. Colts players would not directly criticize the replacements, but admit that authority on the field is being challenged, if not compromised. Cornerback Jerraud Powers says defensive backs are being more physical with wide receivers.
"It's like, 'let's test the the limit'," said Powers. "Receivers are doing the same thing. 'What am I going to get away with today?' You can't really fault them. If that's how the flow of the game is going, as a player you've got to adapt to the flow of the game. It's been some criticizing of the replacements. But it's like anything else. As a player you just have to go out there and play and whatever happens, happens."
The regular officials are locked out in a contract dispute with the league. The NFL wants to end the officials pension program in favor of a 401(k) plan. The league also wants to expand the pool of officials, which means each official would work fewer games each season. Officials are paid by the game.
Colts safety Antoine Bethea wants to see the regular officials return quickly. Bethea calls the officiating the first three weeks of the season "awkward."
"Not to point any fingers at anybody," said Colts safety Antoine Bethea. "It's just been tough with the situation at hand."
Colts punter Pat McAfee says the replacement officials are in a difficult position.
"There is an overwhelming amount of people that look for flaws in every single call," said McAfee. "So every time a flag is thrown, you've got reporters replaying everthing and saying, 'Oh, I don't know about that.' I don't know if that would be happening with the professional refs."
"Ultimately, the players decide the game," said Colts offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo. "Whatever happens with the refs, it's their business. I haven't really seen much in our games that's drastic."
NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith sent the following message to his player members Tuesday:
"The decision by the NFL owners to lockout 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.
It is the NFL's duty to provide a workplace that is as safe as possible. The League will want fans, the media and sponsors to talk only about ‘the product' on the field. We are not product.
While the focus today is about a blown call and the outcome of one football game, our focus as a family of players is and will remain squarely on workplace safety.
Contrary to some reports, we are not crossing any picket line. The referees are not on strike. The Owners locked them out. We are actively reviewing any and all possible actions to protect you."
The NFL released the following explanation on the final play in Seattle:
In Monday's game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, Seattle faced a 4th-and-10 from the Green Bay 24 with eight seconds remaining in the game.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw a pass into the end zone. Several players, including Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate and Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings, jumped into the air in an attempt to catch the ball.
While the ball is in the air, Tate can be seen shoving Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground. This should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game. It was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay.
When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both Tate and Jennings had possession of the ball. Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. The result of the play was a touchdown.
Replay Official Howard Slavin stopped the game for an instant replay review. The aspects of the play that were reviewable included if the ball hit the ground and who had possession of the ball. In the end zone, a ruling of a simultaneous catch is reviewable. That is not the case in the field of play, only in the end zone.
Referee Wayne Elliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the on-field ruling of touchdown stood. The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review.
The result of the game is final.
Applicable rules to the play are as follows:
A player (or players) jumping in the air has not legally gained possession of the ball until he satisfies the elements of a catch listed here.
Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3 of the NFL Rule Book defines a catch:
A forward pass is complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) if a player, who is inbounds:
(a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and
(b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and
(c) maintains control of the ball long enough, after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, to enable him to perform any act common to the game (i.e., maintaining control long enough to pitch it, pass it, advance with it, or avoid or ward off an opponent, etc.).
When a player (or players) is going to the ground in the attempt to catch a pass, Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1 states:
Player Going to the Ground. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.
Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 5 states:
Simultaneous Catch. If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control. If the ball is muffed after simultaneous touching by two such players, all the players of the passing team become eligible to catch the loose ball.