Many Saints players also have been vocal about the officials’ failure to call pass interference on Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman after he hit Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis while the ball was in the air.
But the latest comments from a Saints player carry more weight than most, as they come from a two-time finalist for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.
New Orleans tight end Benjamin Watson didn’t go the route of calling out the NFL or the referees. Instead, he sent a message directly to Commissioner Roger Goodell imploring him to lead by example by commenting on the situation.
“We all realize that football is an imperfect game, played, coached and officiated by imperfect people,” Watson said in a statement posted Thursday on Twitter. “What occurred last Sunday in New Orleans though, was outside of that expected and accepted of the norm.
“Your continued silence on this matter is unbecoming of the position you hold, detrimental to the integrity of the game and disrespectful and dismissive to football fans everywhere. From the locker room to Park Ave, accountability is what makes our league great.
“Lead by example. We are waiting.”
— Benjamin Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) January 24, 2019
Goodell has yet to publicly comment on the play even though the NFL’s head of officials told Saints coach Sean Payton that the officials “blew the call.”
Robey-Coleman also admitted that he should have been flagged on the play.
It appears that Goodell is waiting for his “State of the NFL” media session next Wednesday ahead of the Super Bowl before he responds to the outpouring of criticism.
There have been no comments about the call from the NFL, nor have there been any private comments.
Saints GM Mickey Loomis said he hasn’t heard from the league office since the game, but he stands by team owner Gayle Benson’s statement in which she vowed to “aggressively pursue changes in NFL policies” in relation to the missed call.
“Look, our fans are hurting,” Loomis told reporters. “Our coaches and staff put so much time and effort. And we achieved so many great goals — win the division, secure the No. 1 seed, win the divisional round in a tough game. We did enough to put ourselves in a position to win this game. And then to kind of have that happen and have the rug pulled out from under you, so to speak, that’s difficult to take. It’s difficult for our fans to take.
“So I understand the hurt. This goes under the category of, ‘Life’s not fair.'”
No single player may be hurting more than Watson, who had said he was retiring after the 2018 season.
Watson missed the NFC championship game with appendicitis, so his NFL career ended on a very sour note.
He finishes with 530 receptions, 5,885 receiving yards and 44 touchdowns in 14 seasons with the Saints, New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.
Watson also has one ring from Super Bowl XXXIX with the Patriots.
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