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Active offseason for NFL officiating

We hope you were able to survive the first weekend without football. While there won’t be any games until August, there will be a lot of activity to prepare for 2017.



We hope you were able to survive the first weekend without football. While there won’t be any games until August, there will be a lot of activity as Dean Blandino, senior vice president of officiating, prepares the zebras for 2017.

The Dark Period

The officials are now in the dark period. Bowing to the officials’ part-time job status, the NFL does not communicate with its officials from the end of the season until May 15. After May 15, the NFL sends the officials the latest rule changes and league policies. Starting then, officials are not allowed to communicate with any members of the media without permission from the league office.


The NFL will have to fill at least three roster spots as Tony Veteri, John McGrath and Bob Waggoner have retired. We haven’t heard of any other retirements; however that could change. Also, the NFL is considering adding an eighth official so there could be 17 brand new hires. I hope that the NFL first manages another wave of roster turnover before adding an eighth official. Blandino will hire new officials in late March and the new hires will be part of the Officiating Development Program.

Rule changes

In March, the NFL Competition Committee will meet to discuss potential rule changes. In the past there have been simple editorial changes to the rule book that close loopholes or unintended consequences. Other years, the committee recommends huge rule changes like moving the extra point kick to a 33-yard attempt, getting rid of the five-yard face mask penalty and getting rid of the force-out catch. The NFL owners will then vote to approve the rules changes. We will report the results of the competition committee and owner’s meetings.

Spring clinics

Shortly after the NFL officiating season begins on May 15 the officials gather in New York for a mini-clinic. At that clinic, the officials take their league physical, run agility drills and learn how to take good care of themselves during the season. The officials learn their crew assignments at this mini clinic. And, members of the Officiating Development Program take part in the meeting. 

In July, the officials will gather in Dallas for the annual clinic. The officials will take a proctored rules exam then and break out in groups by position to go over mechanics and points of emphasis.

Be sure to check Football Zebras all spring for the latest news. Also check out the discussion forum Behind the Football Stripes  for the latest news and discussion about officiating in all sports.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"