Rodgers is sorry for refs â€“ even if NFL isnâ€™t
With the Green Bay Packers taking a day off after losing in Seattle on a botched touchdown call that has taken the NFL world by storm, quarterback Aaron Rodgers' weekly radio show was a little more anticipated than usual Tuesday.
Immediately after Monday night's loss, both Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy chose their words carefully, but Rodgers was far more critical of the NFL and its replacement referees — if no less calculated — when talking to Jason Wilde of Milwaukee radio station WAUK-AM on Tuesday afternoon. Rodgers spoke for nearly eight minutes after an initial prompting from Wilde and had plenty to say, starting with this:
"Some stuff just needs to be said. I have to do something that the NFL isn't going to do: I have to apologize to the fans. Our sport, the multimillion-dollar machine, is generated by people who pay good money to come watch us play. The product that is on the field is not being complemented by an appropriate set of officials. Games are getting out of control. Like I said the first week, I'm OK with replacement refs as long as they don't have a direct impact on the game. Obviously, last night, there was a direct impact on the game on multiple plays.
"My thing is, I just feel bad for the fans because they are paying good money to watch this. The game is being tarnished by an NFL, who obviously cares more about saving some money than having the integrity of the game diminished.
"Let's remember who we are dealing with. We are dealing with an NFL who locked out the players and said we are going to stand firm on our position. I don't think any owner would be too upset about the deal that was finally agreed to by both sides. This NFL locked the players out and basically said (that's tough) to cities like Green Bay, where much of our economy out here relies on those 10 home games and the revenue that's generated through the hundreds of thousands of people who come through each week. This is an NFL who gambled on some low-level referees, including the guy who made the most important call last night, who has never had any professional experience.
"These aren't SEC refs that have been around multiple NFL guys on each team and the speed of the game. Most of those guys, a lot of them, are trying to get to the next level and are the top of the top refs. This is a multibillion-dollar operation against 16 or 17 crews of seven to eight 35- to 50-year-old guys who want a little insurance on the back end — who want to be taken care of for the job that they do and believe that their job is an important part of that shield, the NFL brand. It is obvious now more than ever — not just our game, there have been multiple, but ours probably more than any other — it is obvious the stance the NFL is taking."
After that, Rodgers took on the NFL's Tuesday statement in which it admitted officials should have called pass interference on Seattle's Golden Tate for pushing cornerback Sam Shields in the back but did not admit that the game-deciding touchdown should have been overturned on replay when safety M.D. Jennings, not Tate, seemingly caught the pass.
"So they admit the guy totally blows the call on pass interference," Rodgers told Wilde. "I call bull on that because they say officials (in the statement). No, there was zero communication between them. . . . One of them is signaling over his head, clock stopped, game over. I'm about to signal touchback, and the other — from who knows what angle, as he's looking at M.D. on top of Golden Tate — and he's going to say that's a catch by the receiver while M.D. has the ball against his chest. Usually the association with the simultaneous possession rule is who has the ball pinned against his chest first.
"That's garbage, obviously. They are still trying to cover their butt. So he could have reviewed if it was simultaneous catch.
"So (head referee) Wayne (Elliott), you are telling me you reviewed that video — and to me it only looked like you were under there for about 15 seconds — you looked at that thing and didn't see Golden Tate's right arm come off the ball, or whatever part of M.D. Jennings he was holding on to? M.D. had his ball on his stomach and was on top of Golden as Golden was wrapping his arms around his back. You are telling me there is no indisputable video evidence that existed to overturn that call? I mean, come on, Wayne. That's embarrassing. This is the NFL saying they should have called pass interference, but the refs got it right in the end zone. Unbelievable.
"I saw the back judge, and I put my hands up because I thought we won."
Plenty of Packers players took to Twitter to criticize (often profanely) the referees' handling of the game, but Rodgers wasn't one of them.
"That's part of my no-Twitter-during-the-season policy, so I don't put anything emotional on there," he told Wilde. "We put a lot into this game. That's most of the frustration. We put so much into this, we put our bodies, our livelihood, on the line, and you can't possibly tell me the way things are going right now that player safety is being held to the same standard it was and the integrity of game is what it was. We put our integrity, our livelihood, our families are invested in this, it's frustrating. Those guys were obviously upset about it."