Last updated: June 01. 2013 11:51AM - 1181 Views
Nathan DiBagno
General Manager/Editor

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Rick Patterson hasn’t been afraid to make a tough call in front of thousands of football fans during the Super Bowl, or to stand up to a renowned football coach, or to be on the field with men twice his weight rushing near him.

But he hesitated to answer when someone at Elkin’s Rotary Club asked him to weigh in regarding the controversial call at the end of the Packers-Seahawks game last week. Patterson was a referee in the National Football League for years, and he’s officiated the 2003 and 2005 Super Bowls.

The controversial call on Sept. 24 in Seattle granted a touchdown to the Seahawks and essentially handed them the victory. The NFL later ruled that the wrong call had been made. Since then, a national firestorm has erupted on many matters regarding NFL referees, their experience and their pay structure. The incident also brought to the forefront the NFL referee lockout, which has resulted in the league putting in replacement referees.

Candidates involved in the presidential race have been asked to weigh in on the matter, and the call even got its own Wikipedia entry.

During a visit at the Yadkin Valley Rotary Club, Patterson didn’t say much more about the event other than: “It’s a tough situation.”

However, he did discuss the years of experience and the knowledge base that NFL officials have.

Patterson had already committed to coming to speak to the Rotary Club at the Fairfield Inn before the infamous Packers-Seahawks game. He had just finished talking about his experiences when he offered to take questions. Initially, when Elkin High School Principal Joel Hoyle asked Patterson’s opinion about the call, the NFL referee said with a laugh: “Next question, please.”

Patterson did come back to the question, but still didn’t want to say much about the controversial call. He did comment on the fact that NFL referees traditionally need many years of experience to get into the league.

Patterson, a Gaffney, S.C. resident, early in his career officiated football games in small colleges and universities. He then climbed his way up the ladder by officiating for larger universities and then finally pro football. There was a time in which the now defunct NFL Europe was a primary gateway to the NFL in America, he said.

Patterson said NFL players want to make the right call, and instant replay has helped them improve the quality of the game. He said that the replay helps them make the game “as perfect as possible.”

He added, “We expect to be perfect. (But) we’ve never worked a perfect game.”

When someone asked Patterson about his opinion of New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, he answered: “Great guy. He’s the real deal.”

Reach Nathan DiBagno at 835-1513 ext. 12 or ndibagno@heartlandpublications.com.

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