With ten new officials and several new rules, NFL vice-president of officiating Dean Blandino will be busy over the next 2 ½ days.
The NFL officials are meeting today in Dallas for their annual clinic weekend, a chance for Blandino to have his entire staff in the same room two weeks prior to the first preseason game. Yes, already!
Physical conditioning of officials took place earlier this year in May, so we’re told there won’t be as much focus on the physicality of officials this weekend. During that physical conditioning, side judge James Coleman ruptured his Achilles tendon on the final test rendering him out for the 2015 season, although he is listed as a swing (or substitute) official. All the officials passed.
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. The what-ifs are extensive, and Blandino will be able to explain in detail so the same call is made in every stadium. Of note, officials will discuss and finalize a new ball procedure given the league’s allegation that the Patriots deliberately deflated their handball supply in the AFC Championship game.
Bill Leavy, who retired from the referee position to take a regional supervisor position, will lead the meetings with referees. Like last year, Garth DeFelice will be heading up the meetings with the umpires, Gary Slaughter will be leading the head linesmen and line judges, and Neely Dunn will lead the deep officials. All of the crews will also have a chance to get together and coordinate their off-field duties within each crew.
Officials will be required to pass tests related to their rules knowledge. Video and written tests are included in the rules knowledge portion of the tests.