Bell: Trent Williams' cursing ref allegation concerning

November 23 [Sat], 2013, 10:49

They are back in the spotlight, at the center of heated debate.

Worse than the controversial call on Sunday that left the San Francisco 49ers steaming and the questionable non-call on Monday night that had the New England Patriots fuming was the allegation by Washington tackle Trent Williams that he was cursed at by umpire Roy Ellison.

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If Williams' version of what happened in Philadelphia pans out, the NFL needs to suspend Ellison. One game? Two games?

Bill Belichick was fined $50,000 last year for putting his hands on an official after the Patriots lost at the Baltimore Ravens.

Players who repeatedly violate safety rules -- hello, Brandon Meriweather and Dashon Goldson -- draw suspensions.

Ellison, in his 11th year as an NFL official, should be held to an even higher standard.

And while the pivotal calls in New Orleans and Carolina can still be argued in the gray area of interpretation, the notion that an official -- even if in retaliation of a comment by the player -- would curse at a player is an inexcusable conduct issue.

If, of course, it can proved during a league investigation.

"They'll probably sweep it under the rug," Williams said after Wednesday's practice.

Williams said that after he exchanged words with an Eagles player and was getting set for the next play, Ellison called him a "garbage (expletive).

"If I had said something to him of that nature, it's at least a flag," Williams said. "Or I'm thrown out of the game."

<!--iframe comment-->Teammates support Williams -- although it would be much more likely to stick if some Eagles corroborated his allegation.

"I can definitely vouch that some things were said," Washington guard Kory Lichtensteiger told USA TODAY Sports. "I heard the ref say some very disparaging things, including the F-bomb."

This isn't the first time Ellison's conduct has been questioned. Mike Pereira, the league's former director of officiating, said the allegation deeply concerns him -- and he imagines a similar sentiment in the league office. Pereira discussed a similar allegation in his office with Ellison in the past.

Pereira, who left the NFL in 2009, said that he doesn't recall exactly when the issue previously arose with Ellison, but remembers the allegation couldn't be proved. He said Ellison wasn't summoned to New York specifically because of his conduct, but that they discussed it while he was at league headquarters for previously arranged business.

Speaking to USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday, Pereira recalled his message to Ellison, regarding banter with players: "It's not acceptable. Learn from this, moving forward."

It is unclear whether, in the current case, Ellison felt provoked. The NFL said that Ellison and Dean Blandino, the league's current director of officiating, were not unavailable to comment. Ellison is subject to discipline that could include a fine or suspension.

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Pereira, an analyst for Fox Sports, said that the case underscores the need for officials to refrain from engaging in disputes with players and coaches -- even if provoked. Typically, emotional venom is directed at officials when calls are questioned.

"It's a talent to turn your back and not let it get to you, where you just go off," Pereira told USA TODAY Sports. "But you can do it.

"Football is different than hockey and baseball. In the NFL, professionalism has always been preached. You're the one who has to restore calm."

The inquiry will include speaking to witnesses, but as of Wednesday, the primary witness, Williams, said that he hadn't been contacted by the league. Washington coach Mike Shanahan said that he talked to Blandino, but didn't reveal details about the conversation.

The allegations could be tough to prove because there's no audio recording. Lichensteiger was mic'd up during the game for the Fox broadcast, but apparently the purpose was to provide natural sound rather than material to be saved.

"I'm not surprised," Williams grumbled when asked about the lack of audio.

There is so much investigating taking place -- the big one being the Jonathan Martin situation with the Miami Dolphins -- Roger Goodell's office has become like an FBI field office.

Hopefully, guilty or not, this won't be another cold case.

Follow NFL columnist Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.

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Bell: Trent Williams' cursing ref allegation concerning

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