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Referee Gene Steratore’s use of a folded piece of paper in Sunday night’s Raiders-Cowboys game may be the last we see the use of a foreign object during a first down measurement in the NFL.
“I will advise them not to use it again, that is correct,” NFL vice president of officiating Al Riveron said Thursday in a conference call with reporters. “I’ve already done that.”
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With 5:06 left in the fourth quarter, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott snuck the ball for one yard on a 4th-and-one, bringing out the measurement crew. The ball was marked close to the first down marker, and Steratore bent down, pulled out the piece of paper and slid it between the ball and the poll.
He then granted the first down to Dallas, which helped the Cowboys drain more time off the clock and extend their drive. They eventually kicked the game-winning field goal and won, 20-17.
Steratore later said in a pool report that he used the paper as “nothing more than a reaffirmation.”
While it was not a violation of the league’s policy to use the folded sheet, Riveron reiterated the league’s stance on Thursday.
“When he did bring out the piece of paper, that was very, very unusual,” Riveron said. “The last time I saw it done was about four or five years ago, and it was also in an NFL game. That’s not the norm. Gene made the decision strictly, strictly on visual affirmation that the ball had made the line to gain.”
Part of the criticism Steratore drew was for a perceived smile as NBC cameras caught him rising after using the folded sheet of paper to affirm the first down.
“How you can look at that and then get up with a smirk, I don’t know,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said earlier this week. “That’s hard to take.”
When asked about Del Rio’s comments, Riveron stressed that it wasn’t intended to be taken as a slight.
“At no time was Gene being disrespectful to Coach Del Rio, to the Oakland Raiders, or to anyone,” Riveron said. “If that’s the way that it was taken, then I need to apologize, because at no time do any of our officials show any disrespect and that’s the last thing we want anyone to think.”
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