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Final prep for season: NFL Officials Clinic opens in Dallas today


Replay officials are attending without being under contract

It is only a day and a half, but in its own way it is a grueling training camp.

The NFL officials are meeting today in Dallas for their annual clinic weekend, a chance for incoming vice-president of officiating Dean Blandino to have his entire staff in the same room two weeks prior to the first preseason game. Yes, already!

The clinic serves as the linchpin for consistency throughout the season. The interpretations of the new rules are hashed out through film study and lectures. (Blandino talked to us about rules changes for 25 minutes, and we were moving things along quickly.) The what-ifs are extensive, and Blandino will be able to explain in detail so the same call is made in every stadium.

The supervisors under Blandino will form breakout groups to discuss specific areas of expertise, according to Jim Daopoulos, an NBC Sports officiating consultant and formerly an official and supervisor himself. “Johnny Grier [will meet] with the referees, Gary Slaughter with the line of scrimmage guys, Neely Dunn with the deep guys, and Eddie Coukart would be with the umpires. They all have a specific section to talk about, and spend time as a group of the whole staff talking about new rules, philosophies, and mechanics.”

The crews will also have a chance to get together and coordinate their off-field duties related to the job.

Because some of the officials are a generation — and sometimes two — removed from the players, it is important that the officials keep pace with the game. “There are some physical requirements,” Daopoulos said. “[The league wants] to watch these guys run, and not so concerned with how fast they run or how quick they are. They want to take a look at the gait. How are they running? Do they limp around when they run?

“They’re going to have some physicians and trainer-type people there,” to evaluate the officials and how they move. “And I think its a great idea. Those are the things that you need. You don’t need to have a guy who can run a five- or six-minute mile, but you have to have the guys that can move up and down the field and do the lateral movements as necessary to cover the position.”

In addition to the physical tests, there are tests related to the officials’ rules knowledge. “They’re going to have to take a video test, and they’re going to have to take a written test,” Daopoulos said.

In the past, Daopoulos admits, there was little consequence to failing the test. He says the league is considering changing that.

“They actually talked about these guys sitting out if they don’t pass the test, which I think is really important. You know, if a guy can’t pass a test, he shouldn’t be working.”

Replay officials. The replay officials are attending the clinic as well. They are currently working on an expired collective bargaining agreement, which is quite shocking considering the massive debacle last year. Ironically, a replay review that failed to render the correct call was the last play call prior to the on-field officials signing their CBA.

The league and the union have declined any substantive comment.

Image: NFL Network from a 2009 video about the clinic.

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Ben Austro
Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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