Laird Hayes ready to go back to work as NFL side judge

When one of the most controversial calls in NFL history took place, Laird Hayes wasn't watching it during the Monday Night Football telecast.

Hayes, a Newport Beach resident and an NFL side judge entering his 18th season, said he was watching the movie, "Midnight in Paris."

"I absolutely refused to watch those scabs work," said Hayes, who made the big call on Mario Manningham's catch along the sideline during the Giants' game-winning drive against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI in February.

Hayes, a retired professor at Orange Coast College, will avoid watching some NFL games on TV for a different reason. He's back to work, along with the rest of the NFL referees after a deal was struck late Wednesday night.

"I can't wait," Hayes said of getting back to work on Sunday, when he'll be working the Tennessee-at-Houston game.

"It was all pretty predictable. We knew it was eventually going to get solved. We knew these guys were unqualified and would mess up. The games on Sunday were all bad because these people aren't qualified and trained to do what we do."

Hayes said he received several texts after the controversial touchdown call for what became Golden Tate's game-winning catch for Seattle against Green Bay. Hayes watched the replays of side judge Lance Easley make the call for a TD.

"It was kind of crazy; I couldn't believe what I was seeing," Hayes said. "It was clearly the incorrect decision. I think the side judge thinks the Green Bay guy [M.D. Jennings] was on offense. The Seattle guy [Tate] had one hand on it. [Easley] had no qualifications to be at that level. I think he got the teams switched up and then he kind of freaked out."

Hayes will be in Dallas Friday, along with the rest of the NFL officials to sign the eight-year deal they agreed to with the NFL.

Hayes said the NFL referees held and waited despite the NFL giving a take-it-or-leave-it low offer. But the breaking point came in the form of the failed call on the Hail Mary on Monday night.

During the two previous weeks, Hayes said he felt insulted when he heard reports the NFL said the replacement officials were doing fine and improving.

"I've got to think, 'you have to be kidding me,'" Hayes said. "I didn't appreciate it. But that's part of labor negotiations."

Hayes said he has received immense support from the community. It helps to also have his family in his corner, he said.

He'll still need their support because Hayes is prepared for higher expectations from players and fans regarding the officiating.

"We have to be ready to hit the field running and the expectations will be higher for us," he said. "We'll get handshakes, but as soon as we make a decision they don't like it won't be all happy. You expect to be yelled at, that's just part of the deal."

Hayes enjoyed some of his time off, but he is eager to get back to work. He attended his 45th high school reunion in Santa Barbara, and last week, he went to the USC football game against Cal.

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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