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NFL inches toward a public acknowledgement of error in Rams-Saints

NFC Championship - Los Angeles Rams v New Orleans Saints

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 20: Referee Bill Vinovich #52 looks on during the second quarter in the NFC Championship game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 20, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

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The NFL has yet to publicly acknowledge the blown call late in the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s Rams-Saints game. The NFL has come dangerously close to making that concession in court papers filed over the weekend.

At page 2 of the league’s 22-page response to the lawsuit filed last week in New Orleans seeking to compel the Commissioner to intervene regarding the outcome of the NFC Championship game, the league mentions -- without publicly admitting its error -- that an error privately has been communicated to the Saints.

“The NFL parties do not dispute that they have previously advised the Saints, including the club’s head coach, that one or more penalties -- for pass interference or illegal helmet-to-helmet contact --
were mistakenly not called late in the NFC Championship Game, and that the NFL would like its officials on the field to make these calls,” the league’s lawyers write at page 2 of the NFL’s submission to the court. “This was acknowledged immediately after the game to the coach of the New Orleans Saints by NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron.”

Whether the league takes the next step remains to be seen. Commissioner Roger Goodell likely will face questions about the situation during his annual pre-Super Bowl press conference on Wednesday. Either he’ll admit the mistake or he won’t. The league possibly is resisting at this point as a matter of basic stubbornness, refusing to do what so many want the league to do simply because so many want the league to do it.