Pereira wants referee Hochuli back on job this weekend

Updated: September 19, 2008, 1:19 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- The fallout continues over NFL referee Ed Hochuli's game-deciding mistake in Denver on Sunday.

Mike Pereira, the NFL's supervisor of officials, said on his NFL Network show Wednesday night that he's talked several times to Hochuli, and the referee remains devastated. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Hochuli, an official for 19 seasons and a referee for 17, had e-mailed fans in San Diego and told them, "I failed miserably."

Ed Hochuli

We've talked probably seven or eight times since that game, and my whole goal is to try to get him back to get on the horse and work again this weekend. He's too good of a guy, too good of an official to keep off the field.

-- Mike Pereira, on referee Ed Hochuli (above)

The call came in the final minute with Denver having a second-and-1 at the San Diego 1-yard line and the Chargers leading 38-31. Denver quarterback Jay Cutler dropped back to pass, the ball slipped from his hand and a San Diego player recovered. But Hochuli, who has refereed two Super Bowls and is the league's most visible official, ruled it an incomplete pass.

Instant replay showed the call should have been a fumble, but Denver retained the ball at the 10 because under the rules, the ball could not go to San Diego because the whistle had blown when the play was ruled a pass.

Hochuli told Chargers coach Norv Turner he made the wrong call. Then the Broncos went on to score, converted a 2-point conversion, and won 39-38.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday he expected the league's competition committee would review the rule that possession could not change because the whistle blew during the offseason, as it has in the past.

"We all understand the frustration of the fans, in this case, the Chargers fans," Goodell told The Associated Press before accepting an award on behalf of the NFL from the International Radio and Television Society Foundation.

"Mistakes are a part of our game. We do everything we can to avoid them, but Ed's a fantastic official, and he'll continue to be a great official."

Pereira said on his weekly NFL Network show that he has tried to be as supportive as he can to Hochuli, "but he's devastated -- as he should be."

"He is a consummate professional who's refereed in this league for 17 years and he hates to make any mistake. So when you add a mistake of this magnitude, at this particular junction of the game, it's been really hard on him. We've talked probably seven or eight times since that game, and my whole goal is to try to get him back to get on the horse and work again this weekend. He's too good of a guy, too good of an official to keep off the field over this critical mistake he made. I think he'll be all right, but he's really been affected over this mistake he made."

According to the Union-Tribune, Hochuli wrote to several San Diego fans: "Officials strive for perfection -- I failed miserably."

Hochuli has not returned repeated calls and e-mails from The Associated Press.

On the Web site www.NFL85.com, his son, Scott, reported in a section named "Everything Ed" that his father had received many letters of support from fans. The site says Hochuli will ref the Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens game at 4:15 p.m. ET Sunday.

"I am very humbled by the number of people who have come to my defense. Very humbled, indeed," the site reported Ed Hochuli as saying.

Pereira said the rules need to be further examined.

"I think we have to take a step backwards first and look at what we did in 2007 when we brought 'down by contact' into a reviewable situation," he said. "We allowed players to play through the whistle at that point to a recovery of a fumble. We need to look and see if that has been successful, which I believe it has been.

"Now what we really need to do is see if we can take it beyond that, considering this play that happened on Sunday. Can we take it beyond that to the ruling of an incomplete pass and stretch it to the ball actually being recovered by the defender, as the Chargers did here, if in fact it was a fumble? … But the question is, can you extend it here to at least make the right ruling on the field? You would at least be doing partially the right thing, giving the ball to San Diego, although you can't advance the ball.

"Obviously, we're going to look at it because it was such a big play, and we have had some success before with the 'down by contact' rule. We'll take a long look at it, I'm sure."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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