Replacement refs tell 'Inside the NFL' they were told not to call pass interference on Hail Marys

You know, of course, about the Monday Night Football game from two weeks ago that gave the Seahawks a win they shouldn’t have and set up the replacement officials from an unceremoniously exit from the NFL.

But here’s what you don’t know about the Hail Mary that Russell Wilson threw to Golden Tate, who supposedly had a simultaneous catch with Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings after pushing off on Sam Shields: two replacement referees told Showtime’s Inside the NFL that they were told not to call pass interference penalties on Hail Marys.

“(For) the deep officials, it was brought up that you don’t really call interference on a Hail Mary…,” said Wayne Elliott, who was the head referee for that infamous Packers-Seahawks game. “The deep officials were trained that during a Hail Mary, there’s a lot of bodies in there and you just let it go.”

Co-host Cris Collinsworth responded by saying, “Whoa! Really?”

“Which is a philosophy in college too,” said Jim Core, another replacement official. “Those Hail Marys, you don’t want to say all bets are off, but for the most part you let the players decide.”

Previously, Elliott had defended himself, and on the show Wednesday, he also talked about his experiences following the Green Bay-Seattle game when he received a call at home from Packers coach Mike McCarthy.

“He had heard I was having a rough week with all the calls and everything… He wanted me to know he thought that what I did, controversial and maybe he didn’t agree with it, that I handled it with class," said Elliott, who also described the postgame officals locker room which he said was as quiet as a losing locker room. 

Elliott said for the 72 hours after the Monday night call, his phone didn’t stop ringing and that many of them came from Wisconsin. He wasn’t sure how his cell number got out to the masses so quickly.

“The gist of them was I should go off somewhere and die or I should commit suicide," Elliott said. "My reaction was to listen to them, laugh at them and delete them. Nobody actually offered to pull the trigger, so nothing was really threatening.”

Either way, both knew that by signing on to be a replacement official, that would effectively end their advancement as full-time college officials.

“That was the debate on whether I was going to want to give this up,” Core said. “The college commissioners, the college football officiating is controlled by the NFL referees. So we knew crossing the line was going to end the college career.”

Core said his worst run-in with a head coach was with Tampa Bay's Greg Schiano.

“He’s college," Core said. "The rest of them acted at a different level. You could just tell working with them they were at a different level that I felt like he was."

Elliott also described a pleasant conversation he had with smiley Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

"I had Jay Cutler, when we did not reset the game clock for him after a discussion about a penalty enforcement, call me a M-F-ing replacement ref. 'Just because you are a M-F-ing replacement ref, you’ve got to know the f-ing rules,'" Elliott said. "And three minutes later during a timeout, I’m standing next to him and he’s got some water and he said, 'You want some water?' And I said, 'Yes, even though I’m a M-F-ing replacement ref, I’ll drink your water.' And he said, 'It’s all I could say to get your attention.'

Interestingly, both officials said they had positive experiences and both would do the same thing again if given the opportunity.

UPDATE: Here's NFL spokesman Greg Aiello's statement on the matter of pass interference calls on Hail Marys.

"Officials have long been instructed not to call pass interference on 'Hail Mary,' jump ball plays (at end of halves or end of game) unless it is blatant as it was in the Seattle-Green Bay game. Offensive pass interference should have been called on that play. It was more than incidental bumping and jostling."

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