SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Three quarterbacks are walking a tightrope

On that play, there was a clear offensive pass interference on Seattle's Golden Tate, who shoved a Packers defender in the back before the ball arrived. The NFL later said that should have been flagged. But Elliott suggested the league didn't encourage those kinds of calls.

"It was brought up that you don't really call interference on a Hail Mary," he said. "The deep officials were trained that during a Hail Mary, there's a lot of bodies in there and you just let it go."

Elliott also got a phone message from Green Bay Coach Mike McCarthy during the week after the controversial game:

"He called me at my house last week because he had heard I was having a rough week with all the calls and everything," Elliott said. "He wanted me to know he thought that what I did, controversial and maybe he didn't agree with it, that I handled it with class."

In one memorable exchange with Chicago's quarterback, Elliott got an expletive-laced tongue lashing.

"I had Jay Cutler, when we did not reset the game clock for him after a discussion about a penalty enforcement, call me a … replacement ref. 'Just because you are a … replacement ref, you've got to know the … rules." And three minutes later during a timeout, I'm standing next to him and he's got some water and he said, 'You want some water?' And I said, 'Yes, even though I'm a … replacement ref, I'll drink your water.' And he said, 'It's all I could say to get your attention.'"

Core, a middle school geography teacher, said the most difficult coach to work with was Tampa Bay's Greg Schiano.

Asked why, Core said: "He's college. The rest of them acted at a different level."

Overall, Core said he had a "very positive" experience as a replacement ref, but that it was clear that by taking the job he was almost certainly giving up hope of ever working big-time college games, as the officiating supervisors of those conferences are often the officials who were locked out.

"We pretty much knew that the advancement in our college career was over had we signed on," Core said. "So that was the debate on whether I was going to want to give this up.

"The college commissioners, the college football officiating is controlled by the NFL referees. So we knew crossing the line was going to end the college career."

Talking the talk

Be sure to catch the NFL Slam with Mark & Sam every Monday and Friday at 11:30 a.m. at latimes.com/sports. The host is Mark Thompson, formerly co-host of the Mark & Brian show on KLOS.

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