Thursday, July 31, 2014
Ed Hochuli explains his explanations
By Rob Demovsky
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The question came about 26 minutes into NFL referee Ed Hochuli’s presentation in the Lambeau Field media auditorium on the rule changes and points of emphasis for 2014.
It was posed to perhaps the most recognizable member of the football officiating fraternity like this: "Sometimes you're a little wordy, at times, with your explanations…"
To which Hochuli good-naturedly cut in and said: "This is a kind of a wordy question. Could you get to the point?"
Veteran NFL official Ed Hochuli was in Green Bay on Thursday to go over the points of emphasis the league will be monitoring this season.
Among the laughter, one of the members of his officiating crew chimed in.
"We ask [Hochuli] the same thing," he said.
It then took the famously long-winded, well-muscled referee one minute, 25 seconds -- and 294 words -- to explain.
Not all of that will translate to this format, but the gist is this: In 1993, Hochuli, barely a year into his career as a head referee, was working the Thanksgiving game in Dallas between the Cowboys and Dolphins, known better as the Leon Lett game. The Cowboys would have won the game after a blocked field goal had Lett not tried to recover the loose ball in the snow, which allowed the Dolphins to regain possession and attempt the field goal again.
The play and the ruling that followed was confusing and required a lengthy explanation that unbeknownst to anyone at the time was the beginning of a career's worth of Hochuli's long-lasting clarifications. YouTube is filled with them.
"Believe it or not, I don't want to be as wordy as I am," Hochuli said. "My goal is to tell the announcers what's going on. If I can get them the information, they can then go on and explain from there. But I also find that people misunderstand what we did and why we did it. So if we don’t give an explanation a lot of times, people will make the wrong assumption. So if I can give some explanation, I get people headed down the right path.
"I know that sometimes there's more words than there needs [to be]. Sometimes I'll start talking and I'll think to myself, 'How am I going to end this one?' I've explained that and I kind of need to explain this, and it goes on and on and on."
Hochuli attributed some of that to his background as a lawyer.
For more than a half hour on Thursday, Hochuli explained the rules changes and points of emphasis that NFL officials will monitor this season. He and part of his crew are in town for three days to work Green Bay Packers' practices.
Perhaps the most notable point of emphasis this season will be on the stricter enforcement of defensive holding and illegal contact against receivers.
And the flags were flying throughout the practice.
"We started practice today and I think we [flagged] 10 out of the first 10 plays on the DB-receiver drill," Hochuli said. "Players will get it. The players adjust. They understand the rule changes, and they adjust."
That does not mean they will happy about it.
Throughout practice, defensive backs and defensive position coaches questioned members of Hochuli's crew about several calls.
"I didn't get a chance to talk to them, but I might have yelled a few things at them," Packers safety Micah Hyde said with a laugh. "It's tough. It's tough on the defense. I'm hoping it's not as touchy as it was today."