Official Recalls Browns Fans Out Of Control

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - The last time Byron Boston was in Cleveland, the NFL official had to run from bottles and other debris thrown by rioting fans after replay overturned a call in the Browns' home finale last Dec. 16.

"That was the worst," said Boston, father of Arizona wide receiver David Boston. "I expected a reaction, but you don't expect having your life put in jeopardy."

Seven months later, Boston says he'll never forget the sight of fans aiming and firing bottles and an assortment of objects at the officiating crew, players and anyone else on the field.

"I was on the Browns' side talking with coach (Butch) Davis," Boston said. "He almost got hit. I saw a radio hit the field. They even threw bottles at the Browns, which surprised us."

Boston, a tax accountant from Houston, was stunned by the fan's uncontrolled fervor.

"I live in Texas. I used to officiate in the Southwest Conference," Boston said. "Down there they take their football very seriously, they're very passionate. But I have never seen anything like that. We were not expecting that."

Boston and two other officials -- umpire Ed Coukart and field judge Al Jury -- visited the Browns training complex on Monday to brief players, coaches and media members on some of the rule changes for the 2002 season.

Boston's talk to the media focused more on the wild and confusing closing seconds of the Dec. 16 game against Jacksonville, which ended with the officials twice leaving the field under a shower of bottles.

The Browns were driving for a go-ahead touchdown and had a first down at Jacksonville's 9-yard line when officials stopped the clock to review a fourth-down catch by wide receiver Quincy Morgan.

After several hectic minutes, referee Terry McAulay announced that the call had been overturned.

The fans erupted.

As bottles -- some filled with beer -- and other projectiles rained down, McAulay called the game with time remaining on the clock and the officials were told to run for the locker room.

Boston said there was no discussion about moving to the middle of the field for safety.

"They told us to basically just run for it," he said. "So we just ducked and ran. I looked up and saw all these people with bottles ready to hit us."

Finally safe, Boston quickly dressed and was already in street clothes when he got word that the league office had instructed the teams to take the field and finish the game.

So, nervously, the officials went out again, and were targeted by some fans still in stadium.

"You do what the league says," Boston said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)