Ref Breaks Breaks 9 Ribs, Suffers Collapsed Lung

AP Photo
The Associated Press

Just how hard do NFL players hit at full speed?

Line judge Gary Arthur discovered the answer the hard way. The official broke his collarbone, nine ribs, and suffered a collapsed lung when a Baltimore Ravens gunner crashed into him full speed on a punt and trampled over him en route to the returner in Sunday afternoon’s 19-13 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Arthur missed the remainder of the game after suffering his injuries in the first quarter. Initial reports indicated that he merely broke his collarbone. But it turns out he suffered far more extensive breaks than originally believed. Like Tyrell Suggs, he may miss the rest of the season.

Though out of bounds when hit, Arthur remained in the danger zone for collisions. On punt returns, teams regularly force gunners out of bounds in an effort to ensure that the speedy player does not reach the return man. Arthur’s back appeared turned to the approaching action (and facing the action soon approaching with the ball) when he endured the hit.

Though unintentional, the hit comes in the wake of two Texas defensive backs purposely blindsiding a referee at full speed.

The Findlay, Ohio, native has served as an NFL line judge since 1999, working several conference championship games, which indicates the high degree of confidence the NFL places in his officiating.

Unlike the 22 competitors, the officials wear neither helmets nor shoulder pads. At 58, Arthur looked like he could have used both when a larger man thirtysomething years younger crashed into him at full speed.