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NFL will interview Vernatchi as part of clock-error probe

In the aftermath of Monday night’s bizarre error in the Steelers-Chargers game, which saw the official clock start at a time when it was stopped and should have remained stopped, the NFL is doing more than suspending side judge Rob Vernatchi and downgrading the rest of referee Pete Morelli’s crew.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL will be bringing Vernatchi in for a formal interview.

While the NFL has nothing more to say beyond the contents of Thursday’s statement, it appears that the NFL is officially investigating the incident. On one hand, that’s a new approach for the NFL; clock errors happen from time to time, without suspensions or investigations. On the other hand, the NFL’s handling of the #DeflateGate scandal has created an expectation that the league will explore situations that suggest the possibility of foul play.

That’s not to say foul play happened. But there has to be a reason the clock started when it was stopped and should have remained stopped, a reason for the fact that 18 second elapsed before the clock was stopped, a reason the officials didn’t notice the situation, and a reason the clock operator did nothing to alert anyone about the error.

Unlike #DeflateGate, the NFL shouldn’t presume guilt and work backward. Still, it’s important that the NFL determine whether this was an accident or something more than that.

Per the source, the NFL Referees Association will send a representative to the Vernatchi interview. The NFLRA has not responded to a request for comment on the Vernatchi suspension or the investigation.