League office backing up officials

OWINGS MILLS -- The official verdict on the Baltimore Ravens' complaints regarding the officiating hasn't been issued yet, but the league has hinted strongly how it feels about the controversial situation.

During an appearance on HBO's "Inside the NFL" program Wednesday night, senior vice president of officiating Mike Pereira said he has discussed the issue with head linesman Phil McKinnely, whom Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle accused of repeatedly calling him 'boy' during a 27-24 loss Monday night to the New England Patriots.

"I've talked with Phil McKinnely obviously and there's two sides to every story, and his interpretation of this is clearly different," Pereira said.

Pereira acknowledged that McKinnely had admitted using the word, 'boy,' during his argument with Rolle, but defended the former NFL offensive lineman's reaction.

"But not nearly in the context that it's presented," Pereira said. "He's a former player. He's an African-American. He's a wonderful guy. Emotions run high.

"We have to look at everything that was done, everything that was said in the context of how it was said and then whatever decision to be made will be made."

Pereira also reviewed three plays from the game and backed up the officials' decisions each time, including the timeout called by Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan that negated a fourth-down stop on the Patriots' winning drive, the defensive holding penalty on defensive back Jamaine Winborne and the game-winning touchdown catch by wide receiver Jabar Gaffney.

On the Winborne penalty, Pereira said it was a pretty obvious call to make.

"You can have contact within five yards," he said. "Once you're beyond five yards, you have to release. At this point, 10 yards downfield, he has him wrapped up around the chest. Not only is it holding, it's illegal contact."

On Gaffney's catch, the wide receiver appeared to bobble the ball slightly, but maintained control with his hands.

"Sixty percent say it's a catch, maybe some say it's 40," Pereira said ."That's not conclusive enough to change the ruling that has been made. The hand never came off the ball. He maintained control."

TIMEOUT REDUX: Ryan issued a lengthy statement regarding why he called the timeout, a decision that he made due to having only one defensive lineman on the field.

"I've got skin like an armadillo, so I can take it, but I think it's kind of foolish for people to put it on me," Ryan said. "They must not know the game. If they studied half as much as I did, they'd realize that we needed to put a different personnel grouping out there. I haven't heard anybody talk about we only had one defensive tackle on the field."

Ryan's call was intended to stop Patriots quarterback Tom Brady from running a quarterback sneak, which Baltimore did anyway prior to McKinnely nullifying the play.

"You know, it's my job as the defensive coordinator to put our players in the best defense possible to stop what we feel is going to happen," Ryan said. "We had our speed team on the field at the time, which is only one defensive tackle, then we have all linebackers and defensive backs filling out the other 10 spots.

"Obviously if you know it's going to be a sneak, you probably don't want that personnel grouping on the field. If I would've had a crystal ball, I would've obviously left that group on the field and won the game by stopping it like we did. I don't believe Brady when he said he could've made the first down."

Ryan said he wouldn't hesitate to make the same call again given a similar situation.

"We're not going to concede anything in a situation to win a football game," Ryan said. "When it's a fourth and inches, we want to have the best call to put ourselves out there. I have nothing to hide. I stand by my calls, I'd do the exact same thing again in the future, so you can start ripping me all you want.

"That's fine. Nobody is going to be as prepared as I am, our coaches and our players. So you can criticize us all you want and we'll take it."

INJURY UPDATE: Cornerback Chris McAlister (strained knee) didn't practice for the second consecutive day along with defensive tackle Justin Bannan (sprained knee).

Fullback Le'Ron McClain didn't practice due to an illness along with wide receiver Demetrius Williams (high-ankle sprain). Free safety Ed Reed (hip) was downgraded to not practicing after participating on a limited basis Wednesday.

Fullback Justin Green (thigh), tight end Todd Heap (hamstring), cornerback Samari Rolle (shoulder) and safety Gerome Sapp (hamstring) were limited.

Linebacker Bart Scott (broken hand), running back Cory Ross (head), linebacker Gary Stills (knee) and tight end Daniel Wilcox (hip) didn't practice.

Several Colts players didn't practice, including: wide receiver Marvin Harrison (knee), linebacker Gary Brackett (hip), defensive tackle Raheem Brock (rib), offensive tackle Ryan Diem (knee) and defensive back Tim Jennings and Bob Sanders (team decisions).

Offensive tackle Charlie Johnson (team decision), running back Kenton Keith (illness) and defensive end Robert Mathis (team decision) practiced.

ROSTER MOVE: The Ravens signed undrafted rookie quarterback Cullen Finnerty to the practice squad.

The former Grand Valley State star was with the Ravens during their offseason minicamps, but was cut prior to training camp.

"At some point, you need another arm," Billick said. "Cullen was with us in the offseason and showed some promise. It's nice to have him back." Finnerty has been working out back in Michigan and graduated from college.

"I thought I would be back, but not this soon," he said. "I thought they were going to sign me back in January, so it's good to be back here now."

QUICK HITS: Linebacker Terrell Suggs defended teammate Bart Scott, who is expected to be fined by the league for flinging the officials' yellow flag into the stands. Scott said he was reacting to the interplay between Rolle and McKinnely. "Bart gets a lot of grief because people say he lost his cool," Suggs said. "Bart is very passionate and he felt like his teammate was being disrespected. That's just to show maybe he could have handled that better, but that shows the level of the passion and how we really care for each other." ... Running back Willis McGahee made fun of wide receiver Derrick Mason's rendition of a Michael Jackson dance after his touchdown. "Did you see the dance he did in the end zone?" McGahee said. "It was horrible." Mason begged to differ. "My dance is sweet," he said.

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

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