CFL ref Dave Hawkshaw plucked away by NFL

Nic Grigsby of the Tiger-Cats speaks to a referee during the 102nd Grey Cup at B.C. Place in Vancouver, B.C., on Nov. 30, 2014. Ian Kucerak / Postmedia Network / Files

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Sometimes summer interns are so good, so promising, they get offered the very job they temped in.

After three summers of doing just that in the NFL, long-time CFL referee Dave Hawkshaw is going south. The North Vancouver, B.C., resident has joined the NFL, as one of six new officials the four-down league hired this week.

Hawkshaw, for each of the past three years, had been among a handful of CFL game officials to take part in the joint, four-month NFL/CFL officiating development program. He worked NFL preseason games as a field judge in 2016, 2017 and again last August.

In spring and summer 2016 Hawkshaw was one of three CFL game officials – along with Hamilton’s Dave Foxcroft and Edmonton’s Justin McInnes – to take part in the inaugural program, wherein a handful of officials from each league were embedded in the other league’s officiating department, ultimately working a game, or games, before going back to their respective leagues.

At both leagues’ instructional off-season sessions, guest officials joined discussions on matters such as new rules, interpretations and fine points on the mechanics of calling plays. They also were tested and graded in multiple ways.

This joint program was started three years ago by Dean Blandino, then the NFL’s senior VP of officiating, and his CFL counterpart, the now retired Glen Johnson.

The program expanded in 2017 with six CFL officials going south – namely, the 2016 trio plus first-timers Brian Chrupalo of Winnipeg, Jason Maggio of Burlington and Rob Hand of Hamilton.

Last year’s program saw four officials from each league temporarily cross the border, to attend the other’s preseason development meetings as well as work training camps and preseason games.

“I was a little star-struck at first,” Hawkshaw told Postmedia in an interview in 2016. “But all the officials down there were just very welcoming and great to work with. From lending me their notes, to answering all questions. Everybody’s just been fantastic.”

That year, Hawkshaw served as field judge in a preseason game between the host Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints. Hawkshaw said he threw five flags. Some were borderline but replays confirmed his calls, Hawkshaw said.

One call, allowing a New Orleans fumble to stand, compelled Saints head coach Sean Payton to rip the bark off Hawkshaw.

“We’re trained that if you don’t see the knee down, you hold your whistle,” said Hawkshaw, a 14-year CFL official. “I saw the ball loose. It was definitely fumbled, because they review all turnovers, and video showed the guy’s knee was about an inch off the ground. That was a great call.”

Later in that 2016 preseason game, Payton was irked that Hawkshaw penalized one of his receivers for having stepped out of bounds before failing to get both feet back in bounds upon catching the ball.

“He had some choice words for me and the crew,” Hawkshaw said of Payton. “He wasn’t pleased with the call. But then I watched it on replay and slowed it right down. It was the correct call. I was super excited about that.”

Hawkshaw worked the Washington at Baltimore preseason game last Aug. 30, as field judge in referee Shawn Smith’s crew.

Johnson’s successor and Hawkshaw’s now former boss in the CFL, senior director of officiating Darren Hackwood, told Canadian Press the CFL has no issue whatsoever with Hawkshaw leaving for the NFL.

“We see it as a pretty big positive,” Hackwood told the wire service. “We knew kind of going into this partnership with the NFL that, hopefully, we’d get the outcome of them hiring one of our officials that was in the program, and that’s a very big positive for us.”

Hawkshaw, a 45-year-old firefighter, thus becomes the only NFL official who already has seen a coach throw a challenge flag for called or uncalled pass interference.

PRIVATE MATTER : Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s wife, Kelly, underwent surgery Wednesday to remove a brain tumour, per reports. Lions GM Bob Quinn on Thursday he has had “a lot of conversations with Matt over the last few weeks … He kind of wants to keep everything private, so I’m going to leave it at that.” Asked if he must account for Stafford’s situation in next week’s NFL Draft, Quinn said no.

VOLUNTARY: What part of ‘voluntary’ doesn’t Tom Coughlin understand? Apparently the ‘voluntary’ part. The Jacksonville Jaguars’ VP of football operations told his team’s website that “we’re close to 100% attendance” for voluntary workouts, which began Monday. But, he added, “quite frankly all of our players should be here.”

That’s a no-no. The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between owners and players expressly forbids any league employee from publicly or privately pressuring players into attending any workouts or practices in April, May or early June – prior to the mandatory three-day mini-camp in mid June.

In a statement to ProFootballTalk.com, NFLPA president Eric Winston said:

“Our CBA definition of voluntary is the same as the actual definition of voluntary, and prohibits anyone from threatening players to participate in voluntary workouts. This is precisely the reason players negotiated strict work rules and bright lines when it comes to offseason activities … We always pursue any violations to protect our rules.”

GIANT DRAFT DECISION: Giants GM Dave Gettleman held his pre-draft presser on Thursday. Asked if drafting a quarterback – as eventual successor to 38-year-old Eli Manning – is a priority next week, Gettleman said: “The priority is to select the best players. Last year we could not pass up on Saquon. He was the best player in the draft. You can’t do that. We have had this conversation before. Eli is closer to 40 than he is to 25. We can do the math. At the end of the day, we’re going to take the best players.”

JoKryk@postmedia.com

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