AP sources: NFL fires down judge Cruz for poor performance

Cruz blew a blatant false start penalty in the Browns game vs. the Chargers

Associated Press
October 26, 2018 - 9:26 am
Jay Gruden speaks with head linesman Hugo Cruz (94) in the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

© Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

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By BARRY WILNER ,  AP Pro Football Writer

The NFL fired down judge Hugo Cruz on Thursday for inadequate performance, two people familiar with the firing told The Associated Press.

Cruz is in his fourth season as an NFL official. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the league has not publicly announced the move.

Cruz, a part of referee Carl Cheffers' crew, was involved in a missed call in the Chargers-Browns game that led to a Los Angeles touchdown on Oct. 14. Chargers tackle Russell Okung false-started on the play and nothing was called. But he was fired for his overall work over a sustained period, not just for one specific play.

The NFL Referees Association said it would challenge the firing.

"The NFL has a troubling history of knee-jerk reactions with an eye on public relations, and clearly it has not learned from past mistakes," NFLRA Executive Director Scott Green, a former referee, said in a statement. "The NFLRA will protect the collectively bargained rights of all officials and will challenge this reckless decision through the grievance process."

Cruz's firing was first reported by FootballZebras.com, a website dedicated to officiating which said it's the first in-season firing by the league of an official because of performance in the Super Bowl era.

There has been a wave of criticism of officiating this season by team executives, coaches, players and the media. Several times, teams have been told by the league that a call was missed, although that has happened in past years, too.

The league does hand out fines to players for egregious hits, even when they have not been penalized in a game.

In all, the NFL has 121 officials and 17 officiating crews. Because there are extra officials not working each week, filling Cruz's spot shouldn't be an issue.

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