NFL referee during preseason Photo credit: WEWS

Joe Thomas probably won’t take any solace in this, but someone should remind him it’s preseason for the NFL referees too.

There might be no figure hated in the NFL more than the referee and Thomas embodied that Thursday night on Cleveland’s ABC affiliate WEWS. Thomas was on the call for the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles preseason game and the former offensive tackle went off on an official. Early in the second quarter, with the Eagles leading the Browns by a baseball score of 3-2, Cleveland was called for holding, as teams frequently do during the preseason. But this time, the ref probably would have been better off keeping the flag in his pocket.

“Boy, I’m gonna be livid if this is on Hudson,” Thomas said after seeing the flag was thrown. And on cue, the official announced it was indeed a holding penalty on number 66, Browns tackle James Hudson.

“Oh my goodness,” Thomas said, calling for the broadcast to show a replay and determining Hudson’s block was clean. “The referee needs to turn in his certificate for being an official… James Hudson does a picture-perfect job using his inside arm to knock down the long arm. The result is that the Philadelphia Eagles defensive end falls to the ground and the official, who’s probably not paying any attention, throws a flag on my man James Hudson which is criminal!”

NFL referees aren’t the most popular group, but it’s only Week 2 of the preseason. If Thomas, who also works as an analyst on NFL Network, is this upset at a bad holding call in the preseason, what is he going to do when a ref inevitably throws a similarly egregious flag in a game that counts? We look forward to that rant.

Admittedly, I don’t claim to know blocking and holding penalties as well as Thomas, a Hall of Famer at the offensive line position, does. That said, this holding call looked brutal. But if we forced every ref to resign for making a mistake during the preseason, there’d be no one left for the regular season, which means the official will probably hang on to his certificate for at least one more week.


About Brandon Contes

Brandon Contes is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously helped carve the sports vertical for Mediaite and spent more than three years with Barrett Sports Media. Send tips/comments/complaints to