NFL suspends ref for clock mistake in Steelers-Chargers
NEW YORK — In a rare admission of discipline for game officials, the NFL has suspended a side judge and moved a back judge off a prime-time game.
The NFL suspended side judge Rob Vernatchi for one game for not managing the clock properly in the fourth quarter of Pittsburgh’s game at San Diego on Monday night. After a kickoff that was not returned, 18 seconds ran off the clock. The side judge is in charge of monitoring the game clock, which is kept on the stadium scoreboard.
Vernatchi "will not officiate in Week 6 as a result of the failure to notice that the game clock was incorrectly started," league spokesman Michael Signora said Thursday. Signora added Vernatchi is being taken off the field for one week and then will return to referee Pete Morelli’s crew.
Such a move is unusual for the NFL, which rarely publicly reprimands game officials. Vernatchi could file a grievance through the officials’ union.
"The mistake will also impact the evaluation of the other six members of the officiating crew," Signora said. "Had the side judge or any of the other six on-field officials noticed the timing error, they could have corrected it."
Signora said the status of the clock operator in San Diego, an NFL employee, is under review.
The NFL also has reassigned Greg Wilson, the back judge who missed an end-zone penalty in the final moments of Detroit’s loss at Seattle the previous Monday night. Wilson did not call Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright for batting the ball out of the end zone, and Seattle held on for a 13-10 victory.
A person with knowledge of the move told The Associated Press that Wilson has been moved off Sunday night’s Patriots-Colts game and will work Dolphins-Titans instead. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league has not officially announced the switch.
On Tuesday, the NFL released a statement about the mismanagement of the clock in a game Pittsburgh won 24-20 on the final play of the game.
"Because of an error by the clock operator, the game clock was incorrectly started before the Steelers’ first play from scrimmage following the touchback," the statement said. "That first down snap came with 2:38 left to play instead of 2:56, a difference of 18 seconds."
Including the mess-up in Seattle, it was the second straight week the NFL acknowledged an officiating error in a nationally televised game. After the Seahawks’ win, the NFL’s head of officiating, Dean Blandino, said the officials made the wrong call.