Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens has finally given his answer.
Should he have been flagged for pass interference on the controversial fourth-quarter play against the Lions?
“I don’t know,” Hitchens said initially.
After a brief pause, Hitchens then said: “Obviously not. They didn’t call it, so I’m just going by what was the call on the field. They get paid to do their jobs, so that’s that.
“I’m just trying to do my job. I don’t make the calls. Now, I’m just trying to get focused on Green Bay here.”
Hitchens has been somewhat caught off guard by the national debate, borderline outrage, that has come from a single play and spoke Tuesday for the first time publicly since it happened.
To recap: Detroit had a third-and-1 from the Dallas 46, and Matthew Stafford threw an incomplete pass to Brandon Pettigrew on the deep left side.
The back judge flagged Hitchens for pass interference, a call that was announced by referee Pete Morelli and then marked off to give the Lions a first down. However, the head linesman deemed the contact was minimal and the officials reverted course, waving off the penalty with little explanation.
“I think I did a pretty good job of closing the distance and at least trying to get my head turned around,” Hitchens said. “So, overall, I think my technique was pretty decent. I can fight more to get my head turned around or close the gaps a little closer, just little things. You can always improve.”
Dean Blandino, the NFL’s head of officials, said Monday that Hitchens should have been penalized for defensive holding for grabbing Pettigrew’s jersey before the pass. Replays also showed Pettigrew grabbing Hitchens’ facemask during the play, which Blandino said wasn’t a penalty.
“That’s what it looked like,” Hitchens said of the facemask. “Like I said, I’m not here to talk about it or nothing like that. Right now, I’m a young player in this league, and I’m just trying to turn the tables and get focused on next week.”
Hitchens said he is feeling better, as he continues to deal with a high right ankle sprain that kept him out of practice last week. Because of that, the Cowboys hoped to keep Hitchens’ snap count down against the Lions.
But linebacker Rolando McClain missed the second half with an injury, forcing Hitchens to play a total of 33 snaps on the day. And he played well, receiving praise from coach Jason Garrett.
It’s nothing new for Hitchens, of course. The fourth-round pick out of Iowa has exceeded expectations and been the best linebacker the past nine weeks with a team-leading 79 tackles.
“I haven’t done nothing I’m not expected to do,” Hitchens said. “I just think the coaching staff here and our system fits the type of player I am.”