NFL: No prohibition on officials using index card on field

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Referee Gene Steratore’s use of an index card while measuring for a first down in Sunday night’s game between the Cowboys and Raiders has generated a lot of response around the football world.

Former NFL official and supervisor of officials Jim Daopoulos told PFT that officials are “never allowed to use anything other than their eyes to make that decision,” although he acknowledges that there’s no specific rule preventing it from happening.

PFT confirmed with the league that there’s “no prohibition” on using an index card, a sheet of paper or other object in the course of making their ruling. Steratore said he didn’t use the card to make the measurement, but as a “reaffirmation” of seeing the ball reaching the sticks for a first down. Even so, Steratore’s decision has been met with a lot of head-scratching.

In his comments to a pool reporter, Steratore said it has “maybe been done at some point in someone’s career” when asked where got the idea of using the card. Referee Bill Vinovich did something similar during a Browns-Ravens game in 2013 and, as noted in the Akron Beacon Journal at the time, the NFL’s response was the same.

32 responses to “NFL: No prohibition on officials using index card on field

  1. Gene pulling some theatrics out there on the field. I have never sen another refs do something like that. I don’t want others to start either.

  2. They should have taken advantage of modern technology and stuck an Iphone between the ball and the ball marker.

  3. Wow, this is how you spoil, an otherwise entertaining game and moment. It was real football drama, a moment full of anticipation that I truly enjoyed, and it was the right call. As much as I have maligned the officiating, they actually got it right and in the process, experienced a cool, real football moment.

  4. was the call right ? if the paper fit between the football and the yard marker how is that a first down ? why didn’t del rio challenge the spot……..

  5. The real farce in all of this is that at the end of every play the ball is spotted by eye. So to pretend that there is something special during one of these timeouts to measure, index card or not, is just a bit funny. By the way , next time they should use calipers instead of an index card, just for more laughs.

  6. to aben444 if the index fit between the yard-marker and ball, how was it a first down…further, the index was folded making it a tad thicker! the two spots on the plays in question were way off and this made the sequence a ‘calamity’ of sorts!

  7. was the call right ? if the paper fit between the football and the yard marker how is that a first down ? why didn’t del rio challenge the spot……..


    If anything, Garrett could have challenged the spot. Replays show that Dak held the ball well over the 40 yard line.

  8. Does the NFL know about this thing called technology? It’s nuts to use the chains in this day and age.

    OTOH, if it weren’t for the advent of instant reply, we might still know what a catch is.

  9. I liked the smirk on his face as he made the final call. There is a thing called a laser, maybe you’ve heard of it. No reason it couldn’t be set up to shoot a line across the field, it would’ve looked more hi-tech than an index card.

  10. Not sure why this is such a big deal. It was a bad spot, the first down should have been given immediately. The marker was obviously leaning forward (watch Garrett bring that to the officials attention), the card was also in-between the ball and marker, but it was angled to get it to go between. First down no matter how you spin it.

  11. “was the call right ? if the paper fit between the football and the yard marker how is that a first down ? why didn’t del rio challenge the spot……..”

    Why would he have done that? So he could look stupid when the correction they made was moving the ball over a half yard up past the first down marker where it should’ve been in the first place?

  12. As far as I’m concerned, robotic strike zones in the MLB can’t happen soon enough. However, the first-down technology needs to be a heck of a lot better than the stuff the TV crews use, because those are often–and obviously–incorrect.

  13. The call went for the Cowboys, so of course the NFL has no problem with it.

    Ratings Uber Alles!!!

    At least it wasn’t as blatant as picking up a flag on an obvious penalty so the Cowboys could “beat” the Lions in the playoffs to give the NFL the game it wanted with Cowboys vs. Packers at Lambeau instead of Lions/Seahawks and Panthers/Packers.

  14. Maybe it was the angle of the camera but his piece of paper went between the yard stick and the football without touching the ball. If thats the case shouldnt the call be short by the width of a piece of paper rather than a first down.

  15. “Is there a level bubble on it to make sure it is plum?”

    Put one of those, plus laser markers (like the ones in the level I’ve got to put out a level line across your wall) on each side. Easy peasy.

  16. All of the discussion about whether the index card is allowed only distracts from what’s really important in this: index card or not, that ball was not far enough forward to merit a first down. And if the index card fit between the nose of the ball and the first down marker, WOULDN’T THAT MEAN IT *WASN’T* FIRST DOWN?


  17. Del Rio didn’t challenge the spot because he saw exactly what you all did but can’t admit. The ball should have been spotted at least 6 inches forward. He said he “saw air” well put your money where your mouth is and win the game with a challenge, or be a tryhard like Derek Carr and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Safer to blame others than take responsibility for their horrible season.

  18. Y’all are some blind and biased sons of guns. The card did not fit cleanly between the ball and the stick. Watched it live, and I’ve watched it replayed multiple times. The card gets stuck and the ball moved ever so slightly. First down. Deal with it!

  19. Officials will now be required to carry a feeler gauge as part of their measuring equipment. If the smallest gauge fits, it’s not a 1st down; but keep measuring to determine the exact distance between the stick and tip of the ball and show it to everyone.

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