NFL Referees Can Say Some Surprising Things to Players

Many football fans regard NFL referees as idle observers who only talk when announcing calls or explaining rules to players. However, if you listen to the officials, you’ll hear them getting pretty spicy with players. NFL referees can be funny, crass, and irritable. Thanks to hot microphones, fans can hear some funny things.

“Get the F*** outta here”

Philip Rivers may be one of the league’s most prevalent trash-talkers. He demonstrated this in Week 14 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In a clip that went viral, Rivers was seen throwing an 84-yarder to Austin Ekeler and getting heavily excited. For those in the know, an excited Rivers means whoever is closest to him is getting an earful.

In an act of good sportsmanship, the Jaguars’ Yannick Ngakoue helped Rivers up after he fell on the pass. Rather than thanking him and celebrating with his teammates, Rivers screamed “Ninety-yard touchdown!” in Ngouke’s ear.

The video shows one of the referees, Bill Vinovich, getting fed up and telling Rivers to “get the f*** outta here.” The quarterback kept on yelling.

Business decisions from NFL referees

During a 1986 game between the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, brouhaha broke out between the teams. Referee Ben Dreith called a personal foul against Jets defensive tackle Marty Lyons after he punched quarterback Jim Kelly multiple times in the scuffle.

What ensued was a bench-clearing brawl Dreith wanted no part of. Stepping between the players and grabbing the microphone to announce the call, a fed-up Dreith announced it with exaggerated language. 

“Personal foul, No. 99 of the defense,” Dreith announced, giving an exaggerated punching business as he did so. “After he tackled the quarterback, he was giving him the business down there.” The call is so memorable that over three decades later, football fans still remember it. 

Remember to turn off your mic

Referees turn the microphones on and off so often during a game that they often do so without thinking. This could go wrong for many reasons. In 2016, referee Pete Morelli turned on his mic, announced a play, then forgot to do something very important.

Referee Bill Vinovich looks on during the NFC Championship game
Referee Bill Vinovich looks on during a game | Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Morelli didn’t turn off his microphone, and he treated a stadium full of NFL fans to colorful commentary about how quickly the game could get feisty. He reportedly said, “Slowly turning into a good game, but one big hit and some shit could happen.”

A tongue-tied NFL referee

Everybody gets tongue-tied once in a while, but few do so in front of a crowded stadium. Referee Carl Cheffers experienced this in a game between the Texans and Cowboys as he tried to call a basic unnecessary roughness violation.

“There are multiple fouls on the play,” he said. “Unnecessary — after the play was over — unnecessary roughness on number 52 — excuse me a minute.”

It was a hilarious and relatable mistake that happened to be broadcast to millions of Americans. While so much negative energy is expended on referees, sometimes they make honest mistakes.