After studying videotape of the Washington Redskins' 33-17 loss to the Detroit Lions, wide receiver Michael Westbrook yesterday continued his criticism of the game's officiating, pointing to a handful of "mystery calls" that he said were not substantiated by the footage. Westbrook also questioned the objectivity of line judge Byron Boston, whose son, David, is a rookie wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, among the Redskins' NFC East rivals.
"Remember I said [Sunday night] there was a 12th man on the field?" Westbrook said. "David Boston's dad was on the sideline. You think Arizona wants us to lose or not?"
Byron Boston, a member of the eight-man crew that worked the game at the Pontiac Silverdome, is in his fifth year as an NFL official and is highly regarded within the league. After Arizona chose David Boston with the eighth pick in the 1998 draft, the NFL's Competition Committee reviewed Byron Boston's status, according to Greg Aiello, the NFL's vice president of public relations. That panel decided that Boston would not be assigned to officiate Arizona games, but its members otherwise had no concerns about his service.
Asked if there was reason to question whether Byron Boston could be impartial in calling a game involving an NFC East team, Aiello said: "Of course not. Obviously not, or he wouldn't be out there."
The Redskins were penalized 14 times for 122 yards in Sunday's loss to Detroit. Those infractions included five offensive holding penalties and four false starts, the result primarily of the aggressiveness of the Lions defensive line and the deafening noise in the Silverdome, which made it tough for linemen to hear quarterback Brad Johnson's count.
In the locker room afterward, Westbrook said the officiating made it feel as if the Redskins were playing against "12 men." The Lions were penalized nine times for 65 yards.
Yesterday Westbrook said he saw no basis for several calls--among them, a 10-yard penalty that Boston called against right tackle Jon Jansen for illegal use of hands with the Redskins trailing 20-17.
"After viewing the film, there was like three mystery calls," Westbrook said. ". . . Somebody's father who plays in our division is a referee. I knew there was a 12th man on the field. I just didn't know who it was."
Westbrook also questioned a false-start penalty against center Cory Raymer.
"We sat there, rewound it, looked at it in slow-motion," he said. "Nobody on the offensive line, none of the receivers, no backs--nobody moved until the quarterback said, 'Hike.' . . . What was he watching? I told y'all we had to be playing against 12 people out there."
Redskins Coach Norv Turner said he hadn't spoken with Westbrook about the officiating. Asked how he viewed the calls, Turner said: "I thought the officials did a real good job in that game handling some very difficult calls. I think instant replay has proven to be very positive. The best thing is: A year ago there was a lot of discussion about officiating and where it's at. The best thing about instant replay this year is that it's eliminated most of that."
Referee Phil Luckett's crew had three calls reversed by instant replay during the game.
One of those negated a 30-yard touchdown pass to Westbrook in the fourth quarter. Officials ruled that Westbrook's feet were not in bounds. The Redskins claimed otherwise and felt that even if Westbrook wasn't in bounds, it was because a Lions defender forced him out of bounds.
Asked if Redskins officials sent any of the game's controversial plays to the NFL office for review, Turner said: "We send plays into the league every week. Sometimes it's to get an interpretation of the play; sometimes it's to ask if it was called appropriately."
A tax consultant by profession, Byron Boston has been selected to work the playoffs for the last three seasons, an honor bestowed on the league's top-rated officials. For the past two years, he has worked the NFC championship game.
"That's a reflection of his high rating," Aiello said.
In recent weeks he has worked two games involving NFC East teams: Philadelphia at Chicago on Oct. 17 and New Orleans at the New York Giants on Oct. 24. The NFC East team won both games.
At 7-5, the Redskins sit atop the NFC East, with Arizona, Dallas and the Giants knotted in a three-way tie, at 6-6, for second place.
While Byron Boston may not officiate any of his son's regular season games, he did officiate a preseason game involving the Cardinals, Aiello said. The father-son relationship became fodder for human-interest stories at the time. They are the only such father-son duo in the NFL, Aiello said.
Redskins Notes: Turner said he intends to continue alternating Brian Mitchell and James Thrash on kickoff returns, even though Thrash returned one 95 yards for a touchdown Sunday against Detroit. It was the Redskins' first kickoff return for a touchdown since Dec. 6, 1998, against San Diego . . . Guard Keith Sims isn't expected to practice until Friday and likely won't know until Sunday whether he'll be able to play against Arizona after re-injuring his sprained right knee in the loss to Detroit. If Sims can't play, Brad Badger would start at left guard.