Hochuli returns after last year's gaffe

Updated: August 4, 2009, 8:59 PM ET
Associated Press

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- NFL referee Ed Hochuli received the warm welcome he expected when he arrived at Dove Valley on Tuesday to help officiate the Broncos' 11-on-11 team sessions and explain new rules to the players and coaches.

"Yeah, he's one of our favorite guys," coach Josh McDaniels said. "The whole team was excited to see Ed Hochuli today. ... As soon as I introduced him there was a big cheer. They haven't forgotten last year against San Diego."

Neither has Hochuli, who met with the players to explain rules changes, including the "Ed Hochuli Rule."

In response to Hochuli's big blunder last year, team owners this offseason passed a rule allowing video replays on a loose ball that could be either a fumble or an incomplete pass.

Hochuli famously ruled then-Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler to have thrown an incomplete pass in the final moments of a Week 2 game with San Diego last season. Replays clearly showed it was a fumble that the Chargers recovered, but the play was not part of the review process. Denver kept the ball and won the game seconds later, 39-38.

Now, the play is reviewable.

"If that play were to happen now it would be San Diego's ball at the spot of recovery," Hochuli said.

Hochuli, who will be at the Broncos' workouts for the next two days, is good-natured about the new rule nicknamed after him but he's certainly not proud that his gaffe caused such a stir.

"I wish that I had not made a mistake that had to result in a rule change. But beyond that, it goes with the territory," Hochuli said. "This is my 20th year in the NFL. You put yourself out there in front of literally hundreds of millions of people every week and they're going to analyze everything in slow-motion and those types of things. And hopefully most of the time you're right, and if you're not, you're not around any longer.

"So, most of the time you don't make mistakes and you move forward. But unfortunately we're going to occasionally make a mistake."

Many Chargers fans felt Hochuli was off the hook once San Diego beat the Broncos in the season finale last year to clinch the AFC West title.

Hochuli didn't see it that way, though.

"You're just thinking about getting the plays right and you never root for a team or you never say, 'Geez, I'm glad that team won,' " or anything like that," Hochuli said.

Had the Broncos held on to their three-game lead with three weeks to go before their colossal collapse that cost coach Mike Shanahan his job, Hochuli would still be Public Enemy No. 1 in San Diego, where he has a home, splitting his time between Phoenix and Southern California.

"I don't want a mistake of mine to affect a team. I didn't like that it affected the outcome of that game. And I wouldn't want it to affect the outcome of whether a team gets to the playoffs," Hochuli said.

"So, if you look at it after the fact, sure it's nice that mistake didn't keep a team out of the playoffs. But my point that I'm trying to make is at that time, I certainly wasn't thinking, 'Oh, I hope San Diego wins that game to get me off the hook.' Because nothing will get me off the hook for the mistake. It was a mistake and nothing's going to make it go away."

Hochuli won't be going to the Chargers camp this year. The league assigns three or four officials to go to each of the 32 training camps, and he drew Denver.

"I'm glad to come to Denver. It's a great city. I knew the weather would be good up here," Hochuli said. "The last time I came to camp in Denver, the camp was up in Greeley, and so I was looking forward to seeing the new facility and to seeing Josh's system and see how things are going."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press