Ravens furious about officiating

OWINGS MILLS -- The NFL is investigating the Baltimore Ravens' critical comments regarding the officiating, including cornerback Samari Rolle's accusation that an official called him "boy" multiple times. In the wake of the Ravens' 27-24 loss to the undefeated New England Patriots, the aftermath created a firestorm of controversy.

"We are looking into it," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail.

Rolle claimed that head linesman Phil McKinnely was disrespectful in a verbal exchange as the defense vehemently disputed a penalty.

Television replays clearly show the argument, but it's impossible to hear what transpired. According to Rolle, McKinnely crossed the line.

"The ref called me a boy," Rolle said. "I will be calling my agent in the morning and sending my complaint. I have a wife and three kids. Don't call me a boy.

"Don't call me a boy during a game because I said, 'You've never played football before.' He said, 'Shut up, boy, play boy. He just kept saying that."

Many pundits have characterized the alleged remarks as racially-charged language.

McKinnely, 53, is African-American, as is Rolle.

Rolle is incorrect about McKinnely's football background. He played offensive tackle for the Atlanta Falcons, the Los Angeles Rams and the Chicago Bears in an NFL career that spanned six seasons, retiring in 1982.

He became an NFL official in 2002. Rolle alleged that he only began arguing with McKinnely after linebacker Bart Scott was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after wide receiver Jabar Gaffney's game-winning touchdown with 44 seconds remaining. Then, Scott was penalized for a second personal foul when he flung the official's yellow flag into the stands.

"He called me a boy several times," Rolle said. "After Bart got the first one, I said, 'Man, you never played football before, and you're going to call the game like this?' And he was like, 'Shut up, boy, and play, boy.' He just kept saying it. He'll be hearing from my lawyer."

An enraged Scott had to be restrained from going after McKinnely.

"The referee told me to have some class," Scott said. "Okay, have some integrity. Then, you have a referee calling someone a boy. That sounds like a personal vendetta to me. .. They can go back to selling shoes."

Wide receiver Derrick Mason backed up Rolle's description of the interplay with the officials. "You should have heard some of the verbal blasting we were taking from the refs," Mason said. "I mean, it was despicable."

Following an instant-replay challenge, the touchdown was upheld as it was ruled that Gaffney got both feet in bounds and had control of the football.

"It's hard to go out there and play the Patriots and the refs at the same time," cornerback Chris McAlister said. "They put the crown on top, and they want them to win.

"From the replay, he didn't even have the ball in his possession. Obviously, the refs, they're horrible. They made a lot of bad calls."

The Ravens, who were penalized 13 times for 100 yards while New England was flagged four times for 30 yards, are contemplating what action to take.

The NFL normally reviews plays with executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson, the former Atlanta Falcons executive who was once Ravens coach Brian Billick's agent.

Scott compounded a bad situation by committing the penalties, including one where he tossed a referee's yellow flag into the stands.

Thirty yards of penalties assessed on Scott hurt the Ravens' cause immensely on their subsequent, last-ditch scoring drive.

"No, I didn't act the right way," Scott acknowledged after actions that will likely draw heavy fines from the league by the end of this week.

"You've got to be smarter than that," Billick said after the game. "You can't be a dumb football player."

One day later, Billick didn't condone Scott's reaction.

"The things that set Bart off, I won't make an excuse for it," Billick said during his weekly radio show. "There were certain things going on, I don't know the extent of it, that exacerbated the situation. That doesn't excuse it but it helps you understand the level of frustration."

An earlier defensive holding penalty called on defensive back Jamaine Winborne on 4th-and-5 on an incomplete Tom Brady pass to tight end Ben Watson in the end zone set up Gaffney's score.

"I don't think it was a pass-interference," Winborne said. "I told the ref on that play that I jammed him for five yards, I was very surprised," Winborne said. "If he's going to call it, he should have called it sooner.

"They get a lot of calls, I'll say that. The Patriots are supposed to be one of the best teams in the history of football and they won on a questionable call. It wasn't a clearly-won game in our eyes."

Added linebacker Terrell Suggs: "That's the NFL for you. They've got a poster boy in Tom Brady and they want to keep selling tickets."

There was a debatable timeout called by Baltimore while leading 24-20 on fourth down prior to the Ravens appearing to have Brady stopped with 1:48 remaining.

The play was nullified, which wound up allowing Brady a second chance and he scrambled a dozen yards for the first down to set up the score.

"We didn't feel like we were in the right configuration," Billick said. "We kind of knew what they were going to do and felt like we needed a better call, I guess."

Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan was displayed on television calling the timeout.

When asked who specifically called the timeout, Billick replied: "We called the timeout. If he'd have gotten the first, it would've been you screaming, 'Why didn't you call the timeout?' Let's make sure we don't have a revisionist history."

The league office said that the officials were justified in granting the Ravens a timeout.

Officials are supposed to allow last-second timeout requests from the bench area because the head linesman is positioned in front of the sideline and can't turn around to see who is calling the timeout because they're supposed to be watching the snap of the football.

An NFL spokesman said that the head coach is responsible for the actions of his staff and players in these situations.

Ironically, it was McKinnely who signaled for the timeout.

The winning drive covered 73 yards, featuring two fourth-down conversions along with the pivotal penalty on Winborne.

"In a game of this magnitude, you don't make that call," Rolle said. "Let the players decide the outcome of the game. You can crown them champions now.

"They are a great team. They're not asking the refs to help them, but it's just an empty feeling. We're not sore losers. It's a travesty when you go out there and play that hard and the refs decide the outcome."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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