Flags picked up for replacement refs

Snafus, players' criticism limited

`wasn't terrible'

September 10, 2001|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

A rule of thumb is that good officials are the ones who go unnoticed.

Whether that rule applied to the replacement officials working the Ravens' 17-6 victory over the Chicago Bears yesterday at PSINet Stadium is still up in the air.

"I think it will get better," Ravens strong safety Corey Harris said of the officiating. Questionable calls are "part of the game. It happens at full speed, and considering the number of rules they have to remember, it wasn't terrible."

Though the crew of seven didn't negatively affect the game, its presence and calls (or sometimes lack thereof) were noted.

Umpire Lindley Ivey nearly became part of the story when he didn't move fast enough on a Bears pass play in the first quarter. Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister ran into Ivey as Chicago wide receiver Dez White ran across the middle. (Harris broke up the pass.)

But the replacement officials' most visible gaffe was a failure to flag the Bears for sending two backfield players in motion just before the two-minute warning of the first half.

The mistake drew the initial ire of Ravens coach Brian Billick, who motioned referee Joseph Rider over to the sideline for an explanation.

"He said, `Coach, I missed it,' " Billick said. "I said, `Don't miss it next time.' "

But Billick remained positive about the officiating.

"They want to get it right," he said. "That's the main thing. They're trying to be consistent."

The replacement officials - Rider, Ivey, head linesman Phillip Coady, line judge Paul Beyerle, field judge Tom Stapleton, side judge Mickey Garrett and back judge Jerry Frump - were not an inexperienced bunch, having worked college games. Rider was part of the crew that worked Georgia Tech's 70-7 rout of Navy on Saturday.

And for the most part, the replacement officials did a credible job of calling the game, blowing the whistle at the right time and allowing the game to run smoothly without any controversial penalties.

Rider did have a little trouble operating his portable microphone set. Over a 99-second span of the second quarter, Rider left on his microphone after turning it on to wave off a mistaken penalty flag at the 10:37 mark. During the next three plays, the crowd of 69,365 was able to listen to the sound on the field via Rider's microphone.

And with 1:46 left in the game, Rider, who earlier announced back-to-back penalties with the microphone off, left his microphone on again. As Bears quarterback Shane Matthews threw a pass that was intercepted by Ravens cornerback James Trapp, Rider could be heard yelling, "Ball's away."

"I think the answer I'm supposed to give, for the purposes of fines, is that they did OK," Chicago cornerback R.W. McQuarters said.

Matthews also would not criticize the officials as a group, but he did say he was extremely upset at one non-call.

Early in the fourth quarter with the Bears trailing 10-6, Matthews threw an incomplete pass to wide receiver Marcus Robinson, but came up limping after he took a hit to his ankle, courtesy of Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary.

McCrary's hit, from Matthews' perspective, amounted to a dirty play.

"It was a cheap shot is what it was," Matthews said. "It was very cheap. He'll be fined, definitely. We watched him on film, and that's how McCrary gets all his sacks. He comes in low at the quarterback usually. I'd already let the ball go and he dove in there. I'm kind of glad I went with the blow or it could have been much worse."

Would the regular referees have called a personal foul on McCrary, in Matthews' opinion?

"I think so," Matthews said. "I'm almost positive he'll get fined for it. I may be wrong, but it was extremely late. That's part of the game, I guess."

Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac said he didn't have any problems with the officiating.

"At certain times, they were getting into a committee and trying to decide what they were going to call," he said. "But overall, I think they did a pretty good job."

For at least the next two weeks, the replacement officials will be a fixture at NFL stadiums. The league Saturday rescinded its latest contract offer to its officials - a 60 percent raise in the first year, 85 percent in the second, 100 percent in the third, and 150 percent in the fifth.

The league resubmitted its original offer of June 12, a 20 percent raise in the first year leading up to a 75 percent increase in the fifth.

Defensive tackle Sam Adams perhaps summed up the sentiments of many players yesterday.

"Human nature is human nature, hoss," he said. "No one's perfect."

Sun staff writers Jamison Hensley and Kevin Van Valkenburg contributed to this article.

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