Replacement ref: I blew the call

Officials signal a touchdown by Seattle Seahawks wide

Officials signal a touchdown by Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate, obscured, on the last play of a game against the Green Bay Packers. (Sept. 24, 2012) (Credit: AP)

A little more than two weeks after one of the most controversial calls in NFL history resulted in a dramatic win for the Seahawks over the Packers, the replacement referee who officiated the game admitted he essentially blew the call.

A Hail Mary pass from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to Golden Tate was ruled a touchdown, even though it appeared replays showed that Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings first established possession. Either way, the penalty showed that Tate committed offensive pass interference before going for the ball.

The play set off a torrent of criticism of the replacement officials, and the NFL and the NFL Referees Association reached agreement two days later on a new collective bargaining agreement that brought back the regular officials.

“I'd probably call interception," referee Wayne Elliott said on Showtime’s Inside the NFL. “I learned a rule by screwing up the rule."

Replays also showed that Tate pushed off Green Bay defensive back Sam Shields before jumping for the ball in the end zone, and the NFL came out with a statement the following day indicating the offensive pass interference should have been called.

But Elliott said the NFL trained them to ignore contact on such a play.

"It was brought up that you don't really call interference on a Hail Mary," he said. "Deep officials were trained that during a Hail Mary, there are a lot of bodies in there, you just let it go."

Elliott said he received several threatening calls from fans in the days following the game, but he heard some encouraging words from Packers coach Mike McCarthy.

"He called me at my house last week because he had heard I was having a rough week with all the calls and everything," Elliott told Showtime. "Wanted (me) to know that he thought what I did — controversial and maybe he didn't agree with it — (but he thought) I handled it with class."

When asked if he was treated poorly by players, Elliott singled out Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

"I had Jay Cutler, when we did not reset the game clock for him after a discussion among a penalty enforcement, call me a (expletive) replacement ref. (He said), 'just because you're a replacement ref, you've got to know the (expletive) rules.'

"Three minutes later during a timeout, I'm standing next to him. He's got some water. He said, 'Do you want some water?' I said, 'Yes, even though I'm an [expletive] replacement ref, I'll drink your water. He said, 'It's all I could say to get your attention.'"

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