Official NFL referees are wrapping up their second week back at work, but backlash over calls made by replacement refs continues to be a hot topic. Lance Easley, the sideline judge who made a contentious call during a game between the Packers and the Seahawks, says he still stands by his decision.
On Tuesday, replacement official Lance Easley said he still feels he made the correct call in the controversial ending of the Packers-Seahawks game on Sept. 24 that many believe forced the NFL to end the lockout with the regular referees.
Easley was the sideline judge who signaled a touchdown when Seahawks receiver Golden Tate and Packers safety M.D. Jennings were wrestling for a pass in the end zone. The ruling on the field was that the two players simultaneously caught the ball, which by rule means the possession goes to the receiver. The result was a 14-12 win by the Seahawks that stirred outrage among football fans, and two days later the NFL reached a tentative agreement with the officials union to end the lockout.
Easley spoke with Matt Lauer on TODAY Tuesday about whether he made the correct call.
“Yes,’’ Easley said. “Until they change the rule, I can’t do anything about the call.’’
The NFL did uphold the play upon review, noting that offensive pass interference should have been called against the Seahawks but not disputing Easley’s ruling of a catch by Tate. Head official Wayne Elliot upheld the call after the game, although he later told “Inside the NFL” that he would have ruled the play an interception if he were the sideline judge. The other official near the play did not signal a touchdown when it happened, but Easley said his call of a touchdown was not affected by potentially thinking the other official was going to signal that it was a score.
“That’s not what happened,’’ Easley said. “He didn’t signal touchback, he signaled ‘stop clock,’ which in his opinion would give us time to discuss it. However, it was my call because it was in my primary area. I had to bring that play all the way to the ground and take the whole play.’’
Kevin Casey / Getty Images
Lance Easley (left) during the controversial Seahawks-Packers game of Sept. 24, with referee Wayne Elliott (center) and Mike McCarthy, head coach of the Packers.
Easley, who said he has seen the replay “too many” times because it’s on television every day, has no regrets about making the call.
“(I) wish the players would’ve batted the ball out of bounds and not have the play happen,’’ he said.
He also does not believe it was the primary cause of the NFL ending the lockout with the regular officials only days after it happened.
“I think (the lockout) was pretty much resolved before that issue,’’ Easley said. “It kind of was an exclamation point on the whole deal. The controversy (was) on a play that’s never happened in the history of the NFL. You can go back to the archives. You will not find that play.’’
Easley is not a full-time official at any level; his primary occupation is as a vice president at a Bank of America in Santa Maria, Calif. He had never been an official at a game above the junior college level, but did attend a three-day training academy for college referees, even though he never officiated a Football Bowl Subdivision game.
“I’ve been working as an official many, many years,’’ he said. “I worked hard, and the NFL trained me. We did the best job that we could given the circumstances.’’
The call was particularly high-profile because it was on Monday Night Football with the entire country watching.
“It’s bedlam at the end of a game like that, especially on Monday Night Football,’’ Easley said. “It was chaos afterwards. I had to get in and separate everybody.’’
The call drew a roar of approval at the time because it gave the home team the win, so at least he did not have to endure the wrath of a home crowd at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
“Instead of sleepless in Seattle, it'd rather have been sleepless in Green Bay,’’ Easley said.