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ControversyDespite inadvertent whistle, Panthers TD is allowed to stand, incorrectly

Despite inadvertent whistle, Panthers TD is allowed to stand, incorrectly

Week 9: Panthers at Redskins (video)

Another Redskins game where DeAngelo causes an officiating problem. No, DeAngelo Hall, the Redskins cornerback, did not raise another ruckus. Rather DeAngelo Williams, the Panthers running back, was given a touchdown, which should have been the call, while at the same time should not have been.

Williams ran down the sideline, but line judge Tom Symonette, a ninth year veteran, blew the play dead erroneously. It is the bane of refereedom: the inadvertent whistle. It rarely happens, but when it does, it is a huge mistake. It is further compounded by the fact that there is no equitable remedy for the error. According to the rulebook, the offense has the option of taking the ball at the spot of the whistle or to replay the down.

Referee Carl Cheffers gathered the crew, including Symonette, to determine where Williams was when the play was whistled dead. The replay booth cannot be used to assist the spot or confirm it. (The spot of the ball is only reviewable as it relates to the first-down line or the goal line.)

Cheffers told a pool reporter following the game that the consensus was Williams scored. “By the time the whistle blew, he had already crossed the goal line. That was our decision, and that’s why I announced that the ruling on the field is touchdown.”

Of course, the video shows Williams about 20 yards short of the end zone, and the screencap from @BallHogsRadio shows the signal to stop the clock comes with Williams on the 12-yard line. (Symonette is just outside of the telestrator circle; Williams is number 34.)

And here is the real troubling part. In order to atone for the inadvertent whistle, Cheffers crew tried to find the equitable resolution rather than a rules-based resolution. Symonette knew where Williams was on the field, give or take a couple of yards, when he raised his hands over his head. He should have come clean to his fellow crew members that he was certain, no matter how unpopular the decision, that Williams was short of the goal line by rule.

The cardinal sin of officiating in the inadvertent whistle by Symonette is now vastly overshadowed by his attempt to cover it up.

Pool report from Carl Cheffers

Q: Was there an inadvertent whistle on the touchdown play for Carolina?

Carl Cheffers: Yes. The line judge blew his whistle. We had a lot of discussion about it. We just felt when the whistle blew, that the player would have already scored a touchdown. So, we tried to piece together if we had to spot — by rule, we would have to put him down when the whistle blew, and we tried to decide where that spot would be, and we felt that spot would be in the end zone.

Q: That he was already way ahead?

Cheffers: Yep. That by the time the whistle blew, he had already crossed the goal line. That was our decision, and that’s why I announced that the ruling on the field is touchdown.

Q: What’s the normal procedure? Is that the norm, that you try to piece it together like that?

Cheffers: Yes. So, the options are he can either take the result of the play for the offense, or he could either go back and replay [the down]. And so, they’re obviously going to want to take the result of the play as a long gainer. And the spot was going to be important, and that’s why we were trying to piece together where that spot would be.

Q: Who could take the result? You said “he could take the result.”

Cheffers: The offense has the choice during an inadvertent whistle to take the result of the play or replay the down.

Q: And the defense doesn’t have any?

Cheffers: No. No.

Ben Austro
Ben Austro
Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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6 thoughts on “Despite inadvertent whistle, Panthers TD is allowed to stand, incorrectly

  1. There is absolutely no rules supporting what Cheffers did. I wonder if the NFL has told its officials that if a player “is in the clear” and there’s a whistle, to let the player have the TD. Even that edict, if it exists, is not publicized and would cause confusion among the public and players.

    The kicker is that Cheffers applied common sense, completely vacated the proper inadvertent whistle rules and procedure, and got the call right.

    Now, we’ll see if the league applauds Cheffers for using common sense or if he and Symonette face consequences.

  2. I’d also say if they did apply common sense, Cheffers should have said so instead of giving answers that could be refuted by video evidence (but to be fair, Cheffers had not seen the video yet, most likely).

  3. This will come across as Cryin over spilled milk, but the calls were one way (against the redskins) all day. The league has it in for us since taking draft choices during the summer of collusion against the players and dare I say payback for deangelo hall’s tirade against one of their own. Counting the replacement ref games, officiating has had a direct impact on 3 of skins 6 losses. That is too high of a percentage against any one team.

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