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“Official Review” returns with new ref VP: helmets and dead balls, celebrations



The NFL Network welcomed the new vice-president of officiating, Carl Johnson, in the return of its “Official Review” segment. A spokesperson for the network explained that the transition of Johnson in the new position caused the segment to be placed on hold until he could put the “Official Review” on his list of weekly chores.

Johnson offers up a double-dip format — one cablecast and one online-only version,  much like his predecessor, Mike Pereira — however the calls under review are limited to three, instead of the usual four. We should see the normal weekly output soon. (The “Competition Committee” segment that aired in replacement of “Official Review” may return on an occasional basis.)

The calls under review (video 1 | video 2):

  • In the Saints–Cardinals game, Cardinals quarterback Max Hall fumbled the ball near the goal line, which was returned for the touchdown by teammate Levi Brown. Since Hall’s helmet came off during the play, there was a question as to whether the play is dead under the new rule that  play ends when the ball carrier loses his helmet. Johnson pointed out that since Hall was not the ball carrier when his helmet came off, the play remains live.
  • On an Eagles punt, a special teams player for the 49ers was blocked into a loose ball by an Eagles player. Ordinarily, a player from the receiving team that first touches a ball renders that a live ball for either team to recover. Johnson explained that a receiving team player who is not making a play on the ball or actively engaged in blocking with another player is considered “passive” and therefore the fact that he is blocked into the ball doesn’t suddenly make the ball live. This is rarely called this way but is correct. This prevents a kicking team player from driving  an opponent into the ball when the opposing player is not part of the play. Two exceptions: this does not protect a player who inadvertently brushes into a wildly bouncing ball, nor does it protect an actively blocking player who is overpowered and “shoved” into the path of the ball. The standard is the same for determining fair-catch interference, which was discussed in a 2009 “Official Review” segment, oddly, in Week 5.
  • A costly celebration penalty was levied against the Cowboys, as the penalty set up good field position for the game-winning touchdown drive by the Titans.

Johnson’s analysis is good, however I found some of his explanation of the Cardinals fumble to be too wordy. For example, Johnson said there were many things to consider on the play, such as the restrictions on fourth down fumbles and fumbles after the two-minute warning. Since neither of them applied, these would not have been under consideration, but, rather, served as a primer for unrelated fumble rules.

Johnson’s presentation skills were generally above average for a television “rookie,” as he made it seem a lot easier than it looks, and considering this segment is not his primary duty. I think with a few segments under his belt, he will develop a little more personality to add some of the flavor Pereira added to the presentation.