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Roger Goodell admits blown call in Rams-Saints; NFL will consider replay for pass interference

The Washington Post
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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell answers a question during a news conference for the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, in Atlanta.

ATLANTA — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that the league’s competition committee will consider the prospect of making pass interference calls subject to review by instant replay, but he stopped short of declaring that he favors such a change to the sport’s replay system.

Goodell, speaking at his annual state-of-the-league address during Super Bowl week, also said that he never considered overturning the result of the Los Angeles Rams’ triumph at New Orleans in the NFC championship game and ordering the game replayed from the point of the missed interference call late in regulation that may have cost the Saints a victory.

“That was not a consideration,” Goodell said.

The tumult over the interference non-call in the final two minutes of regulation has continued into Super Bowl week. Goodell made the NFL’s first public acknowledgment that the call was erroneous.

“It’s a play that should be called,” Goodell said.

Al Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, admitted to Saints coach Sean Payton after the game that interference should have been called against the Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman for an early hit on the Saints’ Tommylee Lewis. Robey-Coleman also was fined for an illegal hit on Lewis on the play that went uncalled.

Goodell said he subsequently spoke to Payton, a member of the competition committee. He said he understands the frustration of the Saints and their fans. He also defended the league’s decision not to make a public acknowledgment of the officiating mistake earlier.

“That’s our process,” Goodell said.

Goodell noted that the competition committee in the past has been against making judgment calls such as pass interference subject to replay. But he said the league still must consider potential changes.

“Technology is not going to solve all those issues … but we have to continue to go down that path… . We will look again at instant replay,” Goodell said.

Goodell said he will “make sure the competition committee understands this is critical to us” for there to be a better solution than there currently is for addressing such an officiating mistake.

“We try to get better,” Goodell said. “We try to learn… . I think the committee will definitely consider this.”

Any rule change would have to be approved by at least 24 of the 32 teams and, if ratified, would take effect next season.

The NFL rule book empowers Goodell to overturn the result of a game or to order all or part of a game to be replayed for an extraordinarily unfair act. But the rule book also says the commissioner will not take such action based on a complaint by a team over a judgment call by the on-field officials. Goodell cited that clause in the rule book, saying he was not authorized to act in this case.