Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes specifically sought out and confronted the officials from Sunday’s game on the way to the locker room. Hughes was captured on video going ballistic, yelling that one of the officials called him “a bitch.” The official that Hughes is directing his ire to was obscured in the video, but Football Zebras identified that it was umpire Roy Ellison. Referee Shawn Hochuli could be heard saying, “Come on, Roy,” to diffuse the situation.
The NFL is investigating the matter, and until that is completed, Ellison will not be on the field.
In response to our query, NFL spokesman Michael Signora told Football Zebras via e-mail, “The matter is under review. While that review is ongoing, Roy Ellison has been placed on administrative leave.”
The officials union is calling out the NFL for not addressing Hughes’ role in the incident. Scott Green, the executive director of the NFL Referees Association, released this statement:
We fully expect the NFL’s review to clear Roy Ellison. Video from last week’s game shows he was verbally threatened by a player who has a well-documented history of abusive language and inappropriate actions towards our officials. While we are disappointed that the NFL has yet to address that aspect of the incident, we look forward to working with the League during its review and will ensure that Roy’s rights are protected during this process.
Ellison is no stranger to verbal confrontation. He was suspended in 2013 for “profane and derogatory comments” he allegedly made toward Washington tackle Trent Williams. At the time, only 5 other situations in NFL history spawned a suspension (in some cases more than one official). Should the leave be extended into a suspension, he will join Jack Fette as the only official to be suspended for separate incidents.
Ellison was the umpire in Super Bowl LII last February as well as Super Bowl XLIII (Steelers-Cardinals). Since 2007, he has missed the postseason only twice, one was due to a late-season injury. He is also one of the league’s 24 full-time officials.
Hughes, as the NFLRA notes, also has history with conflict with officials. According to Spotrac, Hughes was fined $22,050 for abusive language towards an official in a 2014 game in Miami and $23,152 for verbal abuse of an official the following season against the Giants.
Hughes will likely not be suspended, or if he is to be suspended, it might carry forward to next week. The league assesses player suspensions early in the week to allow the team to plan and to allow an expedited appeal to take place.
From the pieces of the puzzle that are showing, it seems as if Hughes provoked Ellison into a sharp-tongued response, consistent with past incidents for both. It should be noted that the video does not show any other players in the tunnel at the time for either team, so the likelihood is Hughes made an effort to exit the field to deliberate start a confrontation with the officials. A similar confrontation in 2010 with field judge Boris Cheek and cornerback Aqib Talib during his time with the Buccaneers was memorialized in transcript form only. There was no further public statement of any disciplinary action in that incident.
Hochuli’s crew is in Arizona for the Lions-Cardinals game next week. He will likely get the umpire that had a scheduled week off or the one who works Thursday night game will work double duty this weekend.