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NFL drops Hochuli investigation

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CHARLOTTE — Audio, not age, was the key factor in the NFL deciding not to pursue further information in the incident between Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and referee Ed Hochuli.

Minus audio from the exchange Sunday in which Newton alleged Hochuli said, “Cam, you’re not old enough to get that call,” the league won’t seek additional information or prolong any investigation.

The NFL vice president of officiating, Dean Blandino, said Monday that the call on the field — Hochuli not throwing a personal foul penalty flag — was correct. Hochuli had the full support of the NFL referees association. He was adamant Newton’s claim was inaccurate.

Head coach Ron Rivera made it clear during his weekly Monday press conference he wasn’t going to get into Newton’s claim, saying “we’re going to move forward.” But tight end Greg Olsen, who’s been a de facto team spokesman over the years, supported how his quarterback displayed his frustration.

“Cam said what he felt he needed to say. Obviously he felt that he was disrespected,” Olsen said. “I don’t think Cam would have brought it up and said it and just made it up out of thin air.”

Sunday night, the NFL responded to Newton’s accusation with a statement that read, “The officials make decisions based upon the play on the field, and no other factor.”

The he said/she said continued Monday morning when the league’s vice president of officiating appeared on NFL Network.

“Ed was adamant that he did not say that,” Dean Blandino said. “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.”

While Rivera and the league would like to move forward, a story like this doesn’t go away quickly. Few things in sports are juicier than a good, old-fashioned officiating controversy.

“I think certain guys get certain calls, certain guys don’t get calls. I think it goes for offense, defense, quarterbacks, non-quarterbacks. I think that’s just sometimes human nature,” Olsen said.

And because Newton is 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, perhaps it’s sometimes human nature for a ref to consider him different than other guys at his position.

“The problem is Cam doesn’t get treated like a quarterback because he doesn’t look like a quarterback,” Olsen said. “He doesn’t run like a quarterback, he’s not built like a quarterback, and they say, ‘Oh, he’s fine, he’s a big boy. They’re designing runs for him, so what’s a little tackle out of bounds?'”

Actually, Newton has drawn his fair share of flags.

According to STATS, since Newton came into the league in 2011, opponents have been penalized for 30 personal fouls against him, the most of any quarterback.

“I think over the years, I’m sure he’s gotten roughed, and they’ve called it. I don’t think they go into games saying, ‘We’re not going to call it on Cam Newton,'” Olsen said. “I don’t think it’s a conspiracy, but again, Cam spoke for himself.

“He’s an intelligent guy, he’s a responsible spokesman himself, he doesn’t just say nonsense, and he said what he felt he needed to say.”


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