With the NFL reportedly planning to admit that referee Ronald Torbert failed to acknowledge that Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel had properly reported as an eligible receiver during Monday night’s game against the Cardinals, the next question becomes whether the NFL will take action of any kind against Torbert.
Mistakes are made all the time by officials. But the NFL has developed a new habit of taking action against officials who make mistakes in prime time games. Three weeks ago, back judge Greg Wilson failed to penalize Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright for batting a loose ball out of the end zone against the Lions on a Monday night, and Wilson was later reassigned away from the Week Six Sunday night game between the Patriots and Colts. Two weeks ago, side judge Rob Vernatchi was suspended one game with pay for failing to notice that 18 seconds had ticked off the clock near the end of the Steelers-Cardinals game on a Monday night.
If the mistake had happened in one of the various 1:00 p.m. ET games on a Sunday, it may have been no big deal. The fact that it happened on a Monday night could prompt the league to act against Torbert in a way that doesn’t take away any of his pay — which means that there won’t be anything the NFL Referees Association can do.
The reassignment of Wilson and the suspension of Vernatchi sent a clear message to all officials: If you screw up in a prime-time game, the consequences will be more prominent than getting a bad grade from the league office.