Shutdown Corner

Replacement refs say they were told to let pass interference penalties go on Hail Mary plays

Shutdown Corner

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Thankfully, the Replacement Official Era of the NFL is over, but the officiating issue is not completely off our radar screen. Ed Hochuli graces the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy demonstrated his class last week by reaching out to the Wayne Elliott, the referee from his team's 14-12 "loss" to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3, and the issue of the replacement officials will certainly be brought up in Green Bay if the Packers miss the postseason by one game.

Elliott and fellow referee Jim Core discussed his experience as a replacement official this week on Showtime's "Inside the NFL." The most controversial play of the season involved the Hail Mary at the end of the Seahawks-Packers game, where wide receiver Golden Tate blatantly shoved Packers cornerback Sam Shields in the back. No flag was thrown, but Elliott explained that the replacement officials had been instructed to not call pass interference during Hail Mary plays.

"[For] the deep officials, it was brought up that you don't really call interference on a Hail Mary," said Elliott. "The deep officials were trained that during a Hail Mary, there's a lot of bodies in there and you just let it go."

Core stepped in to defend the non-call from Elliott's crew.

"Which is a philosophy in college, too," said Core. "Those Hail Marys, you don't want to say all bets are off, but for the most part, you let the players decide."

In the NFL's official statement regarding the end of the Seahawks-Packers, the league states that pass interference should have been called on Tate. In light of the comments made by the former replacement officials, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello issued the following comment to CBSSports.com:

"Officials have long been instructed not to call pass interference on 'Hail Mary,' jump ball plays (at end of halves or end of game) unless it is blatant as it was in the Seattle-Green Bay game. Offensive pass interference should have been called on that play. It was more than incidental bumping and jostling."

By agreeing to become a replacement official, Core acknowledged that his advancement at the college level was over. The chances that Core (who lives in Idaho) could advance to the Division I level say in the Pac-12 Conference are slim as NFL referee Tony Corrente is that conference's "Director of Officiating." If one of the replacement referees aspired to work in the Big 12, he'd run into NFL referee Walt Anderson, who is that conference's "Coordinator of Football Officials."

"That was the debate on whether I was going to want to give this up," Core said. "The college commissioners, the college football officiating is controlled by the NFL referees. So we knew crossing the line was going to end the college career."

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