Football Zebras has learned that two of the officials who left the league after the 2019 season are returning to the roster in 2020.
Field judges Joe Larrew and Steve Zimmer were listed as 2 of the 9 officials that left the field following the 2019 season. As is typical at the end of NFL careers that end involuntarily, officials are offered a dignified exit of retirement rather than be terminated outright. These also tend to involve severance, in deference to an official’s desire to return for another season.
At least 5 of those 9 officials did not plan to retire, although it is not clear how many of those filed a grievance with the officials union. Now it is clear that Larrew and Zimmer were pushed into a retirement by the league before they felt they were ready, as they have successfully appealed their ouster.
The NFL declined to comment on the situation.
For Larrew, at least, the reinstatement is short-lived, as he has also chosen to exercise his option to sit out for the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Unless he changes his mind about returning, Larrew is guaranteed to have a spot on the 2021 roster under the terms agreed to by the NFL Referees Association and the league.
Larrew and Zimmer were not listed on the roster released by NFL Football Operations last month. The officiating crews that were assigned in May and reported first by Football Zebras also did not have Larrew and Zimmer. The crews are being restructured geographically to lessen the amount of airplane travel and to account for officials opting out under the pandemic plan.