If you look at the video of the moment Cam Newton alleges that referee Ed Hochuli told him he “not old enough,” to get a personal foul call, it’s clear that Hochuli said something that took Newton aback.
But Hochuli’s boss defended his work this morning, and said the veteran official with the strong look-at-me traits didn’t say what Newton said he said.
Appearing on the NFL Network, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said he trusts Hochuli’s version of events.
“I certainly wasn’t there, but I’ve spoken with Ed,” Blandino said. “Ed was adamant that he did not say that. He told me that he said that ‘the difference is you were running.’ I think when you look at the tape it does look like Ed did say that, I think at one point. You can’t see everything that Ed says, but he’s adamant he didn’t say it and I think that’s where we are right now and we’re just going to kind of move on from there.”
Of course, it can’t just go away that easily, because Newton broached the topic of one of officiating’s oldest unwritten rules, that certain players get preferential treatment because of their status. Blandino made it clear that’s not a direction the league gives its officials in training (such that he would say otherwise). And Blandino added that Hochuli could be punished if they found out he said what Newton said he said.
“Absolutely,” Blandino said. “We would do an investigation, see if anybody was mic’d in the area and we’ve had situations in the past where an official said something inappropriate to a player and we’ve disciplined them. So there is a process in place and we would have to go through that process to see if we could pick up what was actually said.
“Any official could be disciplined if they say something inappropriate and we do not teach that the number of years a player is in the league is going to determine whether a foul is called. It’s the posture that he’s in and was there a violation. So saying something to that effect is certainly something that is not appropriate. Again, Ed is adamant that he didn’t say it and that’s where we are.”
That’s precisely what should happen. The league should investigate this one, listen to all the available audio, and share their results. Perhaps an appropriate timeframe might be something between the five-minutes it took them to declare HeadsetGate a non-issue and the offseason-consuming Wells investigation on DeflateGate.
Because whether Newton was trying to buy a cheap 15 yards or not, the simple allegation that Hochuli invoked a different standard for a different player is troubling, for a number of reasons.