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Monday, October 26, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Chargers Lose Ball, Call, Cool

Special To The Seattle Times

SAN DIEGO - Rodney Harrison said he's sure of what he saw. But the San Diego Chargers' strong safety couldn't believe what he heard the official say about a controversial play in yesterday's Charger-Seahawk game.

As Harrison stood in the middle of the Charger locker room, he cocked his hands to his chest in a cradling position, mimicking the action of teammate Terrance Shaw when the Charger cornerback and Seahawk wide receiver Joey Galloway fought for a long pass and tumbled together at the Charger 2-yard line, both clutching the ball. Harrison was the defender nearest the play.

"The official said when two guys get it at the same time, `I give it to the guy who had it last,' " Harrison said. "Terrance had it last, so I don't understand it."

Replays seemed to indicate Shaw had his hands on the ball first as he lunged in front of Galloway in the middle of the field. Then they rolled together on the ground while trying to wrest the ball from the other.

The call so infuriated Shaw, he was still protesting to umpire Jeff Rice as the Seahawks broke their huddle and approached the line of scrimmage. Shaw, who was to line up at left cornerback, had moved to the middle of the back of the end zone, where he squared up to Rice chest to chest to argue with him.

In one continuous motion, Rice reached into his back pocket with his right hand, threw his penalty flag in the air and motioned with his thumb that Shaw was ejected from the game.

The ball was then advanced to the 1-yard line, half the distance to the goal line. The Seahawks scored two plays later for a 27-17 lead with 8:43 remaining.

The call was made by the back judge, Bobby Skelton, who fell down behind Galloway and Shaw. But Skelton ruled it was a simultaneous catch.The field judge, Boris Cheek, and the side judge, Rick Patterson, concurred when the officials had a conference.

"I definitely thought it was a good call," Galloway said. "The ball was a little underthrown, so I had to come back for it and he made a pretty good play. He had a lot of the ball, but I also had some of it and I think the official made a good call."

After the game, referee Larry Nemmers, the head crew official, explained the call.

"The simultanous catch rule states that when the offensive player and defensive player both come down with the ball that the ball belongs to the offensive team," Nemmers said.

Shaw, who had been burned by Galloway on an 81-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, didn't meet with the media. He wasn't in the locker room once the doors were opened to reporters, and he never appeared.

Harrison, who has been fined in the past for illegal hits, wasn't afraid to speak for Shaw.

"I don't care if they fine me," Harrison said. "They've been fining me all year. The cornerback (Shaw) came down with the ball. It was clear he had the ball when he got up. I don't know how it can't be our ball."

Although the Chargers lost by a touchdown, linebacker Junior Seau wouldn't blame the game's loss on the disputed play.

"Obviously it was a turning point in the game, but we can't have games that are decided by the refs," Seau said. "I believe we have enough talent in this room to not have games come down to a ref's call. If you're going to be a hard-core professional athlete, you have to realize calls are going to go against you and you just keep playing."

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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