Although the NFL has taken steps to minimize travel for the league’s officials, most notably, reassigning crews to account for geographic location based on residence, quarantine mandates put in place by some states may force certain officials to undergo a two-week quarantine before traveling again. At the time of publication, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York (all states with NFL stadiums) are among the states that require certain out-of-state visitors to quarantine for a 14-day period upon entry. Additionally, the city of Chicago has imposed a travel-related quarantine mandate independent of the state of Illinois.
The NFL is, no doubt, working with teams and state authorities to allow players and coaches to travel to states with restrictions, but this could also be complicated for the officiating staff.
For NFL officials who are traveling to officiate games in Buffalo, Chicago, New England, or the Meadowlands, new executive orders in those states would force those officials to self-quarantine for 14 days before taking part in any out-of-home activities, which would include officiating NFL games. This may pose a problem for the new officiating triumverate, as even with geographically-reassigned crews, only 9 NFL officials live in the combined states of Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, so a full crew could not be fielded using just those officials. To use local officials to avoid a mandatory quarantine would require the league’s 3 Illinois-based officials to officiate Chicago Bears games, and the remaining 6 Northeast-based officials to work games for the Bills, Giants, Jets, and Patriots. This clearly is not a feasible option.
On the other hand, those 6 NFL officials who live in the Northeast states governed by a local quarantine mandate would also be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon returning home from officiating a game elsewhere in the country that is a part of each state’s restricted travel states, which is as close as Philadelphia for Massachusetts-based officials, and Baltimore for New Jersey/New York-based officials. So, hypothetically, if an official who resides in Massachusetts works a game in, say, Pittsburgh, they would have to self-quarantine for 14 days upon returning home, putting them out of commission for the next two weeks.
Another key point to this potential issue is that those 6 officials who reside in the Northeast do not include any referees. Therefore, a referee traveling to a Northeast-based game to lead a crew would have to quarantine for two weeks upon entry into the state.
As the officiating department continues to finalize details regarding health and safety of the NFL’s officials, a plan may be in the works to avoid triggering any mandated quarantines not only for officials who live in states where such quarantines are required, but also for all other officials who have to travel to those states to officiate.
Those plans likely will not come into view until after the Aug. 13 deadline for officials to opt out of the 2020 season.