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NFL head of officials says use of folded paper to measure first down in Raiders vs Cowboys ‘very, very unusual’, orders referees not to do it again

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Oakland Raiders Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The circus that has resulted from NFL official Gene Steratore breaking out a piece of paper, and folding it to measure for a first down is not going over well with NFL head of officials Al Riveron.

Thursday, in a media conference call, he made it clear that was not proper protocol and he has made it clear that it won’t be happening again.

“When he did bring out the piece of paper, that was very, very unusual,” Riveron said via a USA Today report. “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.”

That “visual affirmation” line was one that Steratore repeated over and over when questioned about it after the game, essentially contradicting himself time and time again. If the decision was made by visual alone, why does it require affirmation from an unorthodox folded piece of paper?

Essentially this is what Riveron is telling officials league wide.

“I will advise them not to use it again, that is correct,” He said. “I’ve already done that.”

The fourth down conversion was a critical one for both the Raiders and the Cowboys. The game was tied at 17-17 with just over five minutes remaining and the ball in Dallas territory at the 40-yard-line. A stop and the Raiders were nearing field goal range for the win. A conversion and the Cowboys could run more time off the clock and potentially drive for the win.

With the ball so close to the sticks, the fate of the game rested in Steratore’s decision. The strange appearance of a folded piece of paper, combined with what appeared to be a bit of a smile on his face after his maneuver, was not received well by Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, who called it a “smirk” and said it was “hard to take.”

While Riveron insisted Steratore was not smirking, he gave one of those halfhearted apologies just in case.

“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.”