Dean Blandino, the vice president of officiating for the NFL, gave his most detailed explanation yet of the ruling on the fumble at the end of the Seattle-St. Louis game during an appearance tonight on the NFL Network.
You can watch it here.
To set it up, St. Louis’ Tre Mason fumbled on a play that began with 1:14 left. Seattle’s Richard Sherman appeared to recover it initially. But officials ruled that St. Louis’ Cory Harkey got it, instead. Seattle coach Pete Carroll was upset that officials did not do a formal review. Blandino later Tweeted that the play was given a quick review by the NFL’s centralized replay system in New York but that it was decided there was not enough evidence to call for a review on the field.
Here’s what Blandino said today when asked about the fumble: “The first thing I want to clear up is the ruling on the field. This was ruled a fumble and you can clearly see that this is a fumble. There were some people that thought we ruled down by contact – that’s not the case. Now we have a loose ball and there are a couple things to think about. How do officials determine a fumble recovery on the field versus in replay? On the field, they’re going to look for possession before it goes into the pile, and when you look at this football, the ball is actually between [Richard] Sherman’s legs and then it is going to go into the pile. Now the officials have to go in and dig and find who has the ball. They went in, they found the St. Louis player with the football and that’s why they ruled St. Louis’ ball. Now when you look at it in replay, you have to have clear evidence of a clear recovery. That means the player actually possessing the ball before it goes into the pile. This was looked at; the replay official looked at it and we looked at it in New York and could not determine whether Sherman actually had it. You’re going to see the ball go underneath his body but he has to have it with his hands. Here’s his green glove, here’s the football and if you let it go, you never see him actually possess the ball. Now it goes into a pile of players. Once it’s in the pile up, you can’t review that; that’s survival of the fittest. That’s why St. Louis got the ball and that’s why it would have stayed had the referee come over and looked at it.”
Blandino also said he wishes they had called for a review saying it wouldn’t have changed anything but would have provided more clarity.
“In hindsight, I would have told the replay official to stop the game just to reset,” he said. “It wouldn’t have changed the call on the field – it would have been St. Louis’ ball – but I think it would have given more clarity at that time. I think that would have been the right thing to do.”