- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The NFL vice president of officiating says that referee Ed Hochuli insists he never told Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton that he “wasn’t old enough” to get a personal foul call during Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.

“Ed was adamant that he did not say that,” Dean Blandino told the NFL Network on Monday. “He told me that he said (to Newton) that ‘the difference is you were running.’ I think when you look at the tape it does look like Ed did say (the difference is you were running). I think that’s where we are right now and we’re just going to kind of move on from there.”

Newton called out the veteran referee after Carolina’s 27-22 win after he felt a personal foul should have been called on Saints defensive tackle Tyeler Davison for hitting him out of bounds after he released a pass.

TV replays show Newton having a brief conversation with Hochuli after the play, and the quarterback reacted at one point with surprise, stopping in his tracks before breaking into a wide, disbelieving smile.

“The response that I got was, ‘Cam, you’re not old enough to get that call,’” Newton said at his postgame press conference Sunday. “I was looking at him like, ‘I didn’t think that you had to have seniority to get a personal foul or anything like that.’ … Heaven forbid he gets any rookies. They are going to have a long day man.”

Blandino declined an interview with The Associated Press through the NFL office, citing a busy schedule. NFL game officials aren’t allowed to conduct interviews during the season, per league rules.

Blandino told the NFL Network if Hochuli did tell Newton he “wasn’t old enough” to get calls, he could be reprimanded. He said there have been times in the past when an official said something inappropriate to a player and was disciplined, although he didn’t elaborate.

“Any official could be disciplined if they say something inappropriate and we do not teach that the number of years a player is in the league is going to determine whether a foul is called,” Blandino said. “It’s the posture that he’s in and was there a violation. So saying something to that effect is certainly something that is not appropriate.”

NFL Referee Association (NFLRA) executive director Jim Quirk released a statement late Monday defending Hochuli, a 26-year veteran NFL referee.

“Not true. Not even close to being true.” Quirk said in a release. “I’m not a lip-reader, but the short video clip I saw looks to me like Ed said very directly that ‘you were running’ and then shakes his head no. We stand by Ed that the accusation against him is totally false.”

Panthers coach Ron Rivera refused to address the issue on Monday saying, “we’re going to move forward.”

Blandino said Hochuli made the right call by not throwing the flag.

“Cam was outside the pocket and he threw the ball on the run, so there are different protections for a quarterback that is running outside the pocket versus in the pocket,” Blandino said. “And outside the pocket you don’t get the two-step protection and so when you look at the play, Cam threw on the run, there was some contact, it wasn’t late and it wasn’t a foul.”

At 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Newton is one of the biggest quarterbacks in the NFL.

There is a perception by the Panthers that because of his physical stature and runs more than any quarterback in the league that Newton doesn’t get as many personal fouls to go his way as other QBs.

Newton said Sunday it’s something that bothers him.

“It is one thing to be frustrated in a situation where you see a personal foul on an opposing quarterback get called,” Newton said. “For me, when it is something around that same range and for that flag not to be called, I am ticked off.”

However, the numbers don’t support the Panthers’ concerns.

Newton has drawn more personal fouls (30) than any quarterback in the league since coming into the league in 2011, according to STATS.

The next closest is Matthew Stafford with 24, and Matt Ryan, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck with 23.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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