Ward Puzzled By NFL's Referee Assignment

The NFL has assigned Bill Leavy to referee Sunday's Seahawks-Steelers game. Leavy, of course, worked Super Bowl XL ...

... a game in which Leavy came to publically regret some of his calls. Hines Ward had some interesting things to say about the NFL's curious assigment.

Hines Ward, wide receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers

Q: Do you think it's smart of the league to put Bill Leavy on this game?

A: I just heard that. I don't know if it's smart. Why would they do that to that guy?

Q: What was your reaction to him saying last year that he "kicked two calls in the fourth quarter" in the Super Bowl against Seattle?

A: He opened a can of worms when he said that. Why would he say that? Maybe that's why they did it. He shouldn't have said that. Maybe this is his punishment.

Q: What did you think of the officiating in Super Bowl XL? Was it as bad as their fans made it out to be?

A: Noooo. It wasn't that bad. Technically they were fouls. They were penalties. Now, how nitpicky do you want to go at it? There's a penalty on every play. Can a ref call half the penalties? They could. Probably at that time that's what he saw and his natural instinct was to throw the flag. The push-off on Chris [Hope], that was a push.

Q: The hold on Clark Haggans?

A: It was a hold (laughs). James [Harrison] could get called for a penalty on every play. That happens to him all the time.

Q: The quarterback sneak at the inch-line was still third down, wasn't it?

A: Yeah (laughs). I don't know (laughs).

Q: What about the Jerramy Stevens fumble that was called an incomplete pass? Was that a bad call against you guys?

A: It really should've been our ball. But, it wasn't. They called it incomplete. We as players are taught not to let the referees determine the outcome of the game. If you're sitting their dwelling on it, then they're getting you out of your mindset of what you've got to do and they will determine the outcome. To sit there complaining, I mean I've been in games where we've gotten no calls and we still found a way to win the ball game. We're never going to make excuses for that. Penalties can be called on every given play. At that time, it was right in front of the refs, he saw it. His natural instinct was to call it. That's what he did. They're complaining about something the guy did right, and now he comes out after hearing all the complaints and says, ‘I regret calling all the penalties.' Well, that was human instinct. You can't go back. You can always second-guess when you slow it down. That happens in every sport all day long. It's a tough job for a ref, but when he came out and opened his mouth with that, he opened up a whole can of worms with that. You're here to call the game and make sure it's played fairly, and when you say there's doubt, that you're questioning your calls, that's not good for anyone.

Q: Should he have been fired?

A: I never want somebody to lose their job. We as humans all make mistakes. But when you open up and you say that, now you just give Seattle fans more reason to complain about something – and now you're refereeing this game? They need to move on. That was six years ago and this guy's still catching hell. I feel bad for the guy. And for the league to put him in the same position again makes it worse.


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