New NFL VP of officiating grateful his sport uses instant replay to review close calls

By Rachel Cohen, AP
Friday, June 11, 2010

New NFL VP of officiating glad to have replay

NEW YORK — Carl Johnson has walked out of a stadium weighed down by the knowledge he blew a call.

What the NFL’s new vice president of officiating can’t relate to is the feeling that a mistake altered a game.

“Last thing I want is to get on that plane, look at the video, and see it was a touchdown and I called the guy out of bounds,” Johnson said. “I know leaving that stadium: Guess what, I may have missed it, but replay fixed it.

“The call was right.”

Johnson can empathize with baseball umpire Jim Joyce in a way only a fellow official can. He admires the way Joyce reacted after incorrectly calling a runner safe to cost Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game last week — which spurred cries for baseball to expand its use of replay.

“We’ve all been in positions where we’ve kicked calls. It happens. The game is so fast,” Johnson said.

“But,” he added, “fortunately we (in the NFL) have instant replay that can us get out of the situation like what happened to that umpire.”

Johnson only knew a world with replay in his nine years as an NFL line judge. As he takes over for the retired Mike Pereira, Johnson carries a comfort level with technology’s role in officiating.

“The more technology we can bring in to the officiating department is going to make us better,” he said Thursday before speaking at an NFL officiating academy at a Harlem community center.

Johnson officiated eight playoff games in his career, including the 2008 Super Bowl between the Giants and Patriots. He comes from a business background — NFL officials aren’t full time and work outside jobs — having trained and managed a sales force in his native Louisiana.

Johnson wants to make at least one small tweak to further take advantage of technology. The league has instant access to video of every play from three angles. Until now, only the referee on each crew received the three angles to review. He wants to expand that to every official.

“If you see one angle, you may see it from behind the quarterback — that’s where the referee stands. If you’re a line judge, that doesn’t really help you,” he said.

“It gives you a view from your perspective. I was a line judge. I rarely saw the game goal line to goal line. I always saw the game from sideline to sideline. That’s the angle I want to see.”

Johnson believes replay gives the NFL credibility — and never more so than on one of the most memorable moments of recent years. In the Super Bowl in 2009, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Santonio Holmes scraped his toes inbound for the winning touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals.

It was ruled a catch on the field — then replay confirmed it.

“You placated a lot of people by looking,” Johnson said. “Guess what: It was a tight play. The biggest plays, in the biggest games, the biggest stage — we looked at it; we got it right. Millions of people saw it, and you know what? It’s a good call.”

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