A new rule for the 2018 season allows for certain members of the officiating department at the Art McNally Gameday Central in New York to disqualify players for specific non-football acts committed before, during, or after a down. In addition, these officiating department members in New York can overturn or approve ejections that were called on the field. There have been, so far, 11 ejections this season (including preseason), and only one was assessed in a replay review. But, when can New York decide to eject a player for a non-football act? Former referee Ed Hochuli explained the new rule and its context in a video released this past weekend.
In the video, Hochuli explains that under the new rule, New York can only impose a disqualification if a flag has been thrown on the play. Without one, an ejection can not be made in replay. Using a few examples from the 2017 season, including the Rob Gronkowski hit on Tre’Davious White and the Aqib Talib-Michael Crabtree brawl, Hochuli detailed how those situations would be handled under the new rule. Inherently, if a flag is thrown for the non-football act, but an ejection is not accompanied with the foul, then the officiating department can instruct the on-field crew to disqualify any player if deemed necessary. If a disqualifying foul occurs, but no flag is thrown, the officiating department cannot stop the game to tell the game officials to penalize and/or eject said player. Hochuli reiterated that a flag needs to be thrown in order for New York to have the ability to weigh in on a possible disqualification.
Another highlighted play was from a Tampa Bay-New Orleans game from last season. On the play, receiver Mike Evans was flagged for unnecessary roughness, for hitting a Saints defender who took a retaliatory swat at Bucs’ quarterback Jameis Winston, who was on the sideline, who taunted the defender. No flag was thrown on the play on Winston for taunting. Evans was not ejected from the game. Hochuli explained the protocol if this play had happened this season. A review would have initiated and New York could tell the officials to eject Evans for his act, but they can’t tell the crew to throw a flag for taunting on Winston. The officiating department can instruct the officials to eject more players, as well, but there would be no additional flags thrown on the play. Also, if the crew misidentified a player they disqualified, replay can step in and correct the number.
— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) November 17, 2018