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Riveron affirms “clear and obvious” as guiding principle of pass interference in replay

At this weekend’s officiating clinic, senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron affirmed that pass interference-related calls will only be reversed in replay if the evidence to overturn is “clear and obvious”.



At this past weekend’s annual clinic in Plano, Texas, just outside of Dallas, all 122 NFL officials gathered to discuss new rules, mechanics, and points of emphasis for the upcoming NFL season. Perhaps the most talked about rules change during the offseason was the ability to review pass interference through the instant replay system. Since instant replay was brought back in 1999 after a 7-year hiatus, this is only the second foul that is eligible for review. One of the basic tenets of instant replay is to only allow a reversal of an on-field ruling when there is irrefutable visual evidence that supports a reversal. At this weekend’s clinic, senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron reiterated that this basis is still in effect when reviewing pass interference; only allowing for a reversal if the evidence is clear and obvious.

In a video posted on the official Twitter page for NFL Officiating, Riveron speaks to the officials about how replay will be used to correct or affirm pass interference calls. Some of the plays that Riveron showed to explain the replay process included plays from last season which were ruled as pass interference on the field, but would not be reversed in replay regardless of the call. In the first play, from a Week 3 game between the Colts and Eagles, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton was flagged by field judge Dave Meslow for offensive pass interference for a slight push-off. Riveron explained to the officials that if this play was subject to review, the flag would not have been picked up. Under the circumstance that a flag was not thrown, Riveron also confirmed that replay would not rule the play to be a foul, since it was not clear and obvious that pass interference occurred on the play.

Riveron also explained that in the circumstances of this game, being a 1:00 Eastern kickoff time, that there potentially may not be as many replay angles for the team at Art McNally Gameday Central to use to view the play during a replay review as there would be during a primetime game on Sunday or Monday night. “We live and die with what TV shows us,” Riveron told the officials.

In another play, from the Week 13 contest between the 49ers and Seahawks, defensive back Ahkello Witherspoon was flagged by side judge Dyrol Prioleau for defensive pass interference. Similar to the play above in Philadelphia, Riveron stated that this play would not be changed in replay whether a flag was thrown or not, since it was not clear and obvious that a foul occurred. Riveron then told the officials, “Is there contact? Yes. Does it smell? Yes. Is it clear and obvious? No.” 

While it may seem that reviewable pass interference may become a headache for players, coaches, and fans during the upcoming season, this video from the clinic suggests that plays will only be reversed in extreme cases of a miss, and not if slight contact was not factored into the ruling on the field. 


Cam Filipe is a forensic scientist and has been involved in football officiating for 12 years. Cam is in his fourth season as a high school football official. This is his ninth season covering NFL officiating for Football Zebras.

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