- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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On the same night when an NFL executive said he sees progress from the replacement officials, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis would disagree with one call.
In Thursday night's game against Green Bay, Bengals safety Taylor Mays was flagged for hitting a defenseless receiver when replays clearly showed it was not a helmet-to-helmet hit. “It was shoulder-to-shoulder. It was exactly shoulder-to-shoulder," Lewis said in quotes distributed by the team after the game. "Unfortunately, the guy that made the call’s explanation was not correct."
Lewis should know the rules. He is part of the NFL's competition committee. But, like most coaches who don't want to receive a call from the league office, Lewis wasn't too harsh on referee Paul Layne and the crew of replacement officials.
“They are getting better,” Lewis said. “Hopefully, it will get closer and closer to what we need. His understanding was that the player was a defenseless receiver. He was, but you are allowed to hit a defenseless receiver shoulder-to-shoulder. There is no such thing as a defenseless player unless he is hit in the head with your head. It was a misinterpretation of the rule. I know they are working hard. The league is working hard to get this stuff corrected. They are working overtime on it actually. It’ll get better and better.”
It appears that everyone on the field, except the officials, believe the flag shouldn't have been thrown. Mays, who has been working to avoid hits to the head after sustaining a concussion two weeks ago, said he thought it was a clean hit. Even Packers tight end Tom Crabtree, who was hit by Mays, agreed that it was the wrong call.
In another AFC North city Thursday night, NFL vice president of football operations Ray Anderson said he's noticed improvement from the replacement officials. He was attending the Jaguars-Ravens game in Baltimore.
"We expected going in, just like the players going through the preseason, that every week they would get better," Anderson told the Baltimore Sun. "The first week, we had some rough spots and we got better from the first week to the second week and we expect to get better this week, too, and on and on. This is the third week and it seems to me they've had a pretty solid first half. Uneventful, that's exactly what you want. That's the improvement we expect."