Around the NFL  

 

Saints owner Benson calls for 'changes in NFL policies'

Print

Anger over the non-call that impeded the New Orleans Saints' path to the Super Bowl on Sunday has been felt and exhibited by Saints fans and players alike.

Now the owner is joining the city-wide chorus of boos and calls for change.

Saints owner Gayle Benson released a statement via the team's website on Monday expressing disappointment over how Bill Vinovich's crew did not call a penalty on Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman late in New Orleans' loss to the Rams.

NFL senior VP of officiating Al Riveron spoke to Saints coach Sean Payton immediately following the game and told him, according to Payton, "We messed it up." Riveron told Payton the refs missed two calls on Robey-Coleman: pass interference and a helmet-to-helmet hit on Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis.

"Yesterday's result is still difficult to accept for all of us," Benson wrote. "I am thoroughly disappointed by the events that led to the outcome of yesterday's game. Getting to the Super Bowl is incredibly difficult to do and takes such an unbelievable commitment from a team and support from its fans. No team should ever be denied the opportunity to reach the title game (or simply win a game) based on the actions, or inactions, of those charged with creating a fair and equitable playing field. As is clear to all who watched the game, it is undeniable that our team and fans were unfairly deprived of that opportunity yesterday."

Benson also called for changes to be made so that such a mistake never occurs again.

"I have been in touch with the NFL regarding yesterday's events and will aggressively pursue changes in NFL policies to ensure no team and fan base is ever put in a similar position again," she continued. "It is a disservice to our coaches, players, employees and, most importantly, the fans who make our game possible. The NFL must always commit to providing the most basic of expectations -- fairness and integrity."

Benson is not the first person, and likely won't be the last, in her organization to call for changes to how controversial calls are officiated or handled.

Following Sunday's season-ending loss, Saints coach Sean Payton told reporters that the missed call on Robey-Coleman proved "all more reason we need more replay."

"We all want to get it right, right? We've got the technology where we can ... We've got plenty of technology to speed things up, and look, I'm on the competition committee so hopefully that provides a voice," Payton said. "But I hope no other team has to lose a game the way we lost that one today though. We were in a position, like I said, to be right on there on the 10-yard line, whatever-yard line, and be on our knee for three plays. It's disappointing."

Payton is indeed a member of the league's competition committee along with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, two owners, two presidents and two general managers. When the group convenes in late March for the Annual League Meeting, there is expected to be a discussion regarding opening up instant replay to pass interference and other judgment calls or no-calls.

But a change to the rulebook won't be easy. As a competition committee member told NFL Network's Judy Battista, "That can get way too subjective and open up a can of worms. 'The left tackle was holding' or 'That should have been illegal contact.' I doubt there would be enough support to go that far."

Until then, Benson, Saints players and sympathizers and fans worldwide are left to wonder: What if?

Below in Benson's statement in full:

Yesterday's result is still difficult to accept for all of us. I am thoroughly disappointed by the events that led to the outcome of yesterday's game. Getting to the Super Bowl is incredibly difficult to do and takes such an unbelievable commitment from a team and support from its fans. No team should ever be denied the opportunity to reach the title game (or simply win a game) based on the actions, or inactions, of those charged with creating a fair and equitable playing field. As is clear to all who watched the game, it is undeniable that our team and fans were unfairly deprived of that opportunity yesterday. I have been in touch with the NFL regarding yesterday's events and will aggressively pursue changes in NFL policies to ensure no team and fan base is ever put in a similar position again. It is a disservice to our coaches, players, employees and, most importantly, the fans who make our game possible. The NFL must always commit to providing the most basic of expectations- fairness and integrity.

Our entire team is humbled and grateful for the support shown by our fans over the course of the season. It has become common for teams to proclaim that they have the "best fans in the NFL". I do not believe there is any debate, however, that we truly have the most inspiring, committed and passionate fans in all of professional sports. This is true whether you are from New Orleans or part of our family of fans from the entire state, region and country.

The truth is we are more than team and fans- we are a family. As a family we celebrate together, support each other and sometimes suffer together. This past season has been especially meaningful to me as we honored my husband. I will never be able to fully express my appreciation for the way all of you have supported me and our team in honoring Tom Benson's legacy. I know he is proud of this team and our fans.

While the way this season ended has left us all frustrated and disappointed, I am comforted knowing we will respond the way our community always responds- with resilience, fierce determination and love for each other and the Saints.

I have had many blessings in my life, perhaps the greatest is being born in New Orleans and having the opportunity to be a part of the Saints family with you. Next season starts now and I can't wait to share it with you again. -Gayle Benson

Print