The NFL announced that the officiating department’s development program with the Canadian Football League will be expanded this summer. The NFL and CFL launched an exchange program last summer which saw the NFL send officials to work some early season games in the CFL. In return, a few Canadian officials participated in NFL mini-camps, preseason games, and officiating clinics.
The program is expanding from four to six NFL officials and will include a back judge and deep wing officials. In 2016 the NFL only sent deep wings (side judges and field judges). NFL officials will work both preseason and early regular season games in the CFL in June and July before reporting to the officials’ clinic in late July. The CFL will send six officials (up from three in 2016) to participate in the NFL’s Officiating Development Program.
One major positive of this program for NFL officials is that it provides an avenue to work live games in the offseason. The best way for officials to develop and hone their skills is to get work at game speed. Without the existence of any kind of minor league or development program for players, it is extremely difficult to get officials those kinds of reps outside of the regular games that they work. This exchange program could become important to the officiating department, especially as the NFL continues to push towards full-time officials.