Referee Gene Steratore pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket to gauge whether there was any space between the football and the line to gain after a crucial Cowboys fourth play on Sunday night. Steratore and his fellow refs have been told not to do it again.
NFL head of officiating Al Riveron confirmed today that he has told officials that that’s not the proper protocol for measuring a first down, and not to do it again.
“When he did bring out the piece of paper, that was very, very unusual. The last time I saw it done was about four or five years ago, also in an NFL game, and that’s not the norm. Gene made the decision strictly on visual affirmation that the ball made the line to gain,” Riveron said. “I will advise them not to use it again. I’ve already done that.”
Former NFL official and officiating supervisor Jim Daopoulos told PFT after the game that officials are not to use anything other than their eyes to see if a ball has reached the first down stick. The league later said there’s not a specific prohibition against doing what Steratore did, but Riveron made clear today that he doesn’t want Steratore or any other ref to use a piece of paper.
Steratore was also criticized by Raiders coach Jack Del Rio for smirking as he signaled a first down, but Riveron said Steratore meant no disrespect.
“At no time was Gene being disrespectful to Coach Del Rio, to the Oakland Raiders or to anyone,” Riveron said. “At no time do our officials show disrespect.”
Nor do they use paper. At least not anymore.