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May 15 is here: Officiating new year starts today

Happy New Year to all NFL officiating fans. No, it isn’t a new calendar year or league year. Traditionally, May 15 marks the first day of the NFL officials being in-season following the 3-month “dark period”, which begins after the Super Bowl. The “dark period” allows the officials to dedicate more time to their full-time occupations. It is not just a courtesy; the “dark period” is required through a mandate in the NFL-NFLRA collective bargaining agreement.

Following the Divisional Playoff games, contact between the NFL and the officials generally ceases, except for the small number of officials assigned to the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl. The Monday following the Super Bowl is the first day of the no-contact “dark period” for all game officials.

The traditional symbol of the start of the officiating season, analogous to the Times Square ball drop, is the officials’ receipt of “Memo #1”, which is the first correspondence they will receive from senior vice presidents Walt Anderson and Perry Fewell. Since May 15 falls on a weekend this year, “Memo #1” will likely appear in each official’s inbox promptly on Monday morning. In this correspondence, the roster of officials will be formally welcomed back for another season, and an open-book rules test will be assigned. New rules are usually briefed in “Memo #1”, however, only two rules changes were passed: one was an existing rule change made permanent, and the other will only affect postseason games. In the rules test, scenarios based on the new rules will make an appearance.

The league’s 10 new officials will be recognized, as well as the 9 that have hung up their stripes. Line judge Jeff Bergman will be entering his 30th NFL season, which will surely be addressed with congratulations. Bergman joins a short list of 7 other officials who worked 30 or more seasons, a list which includes his father Jerry, who also officiated 30 NFL seasons, from 1966 to 1995.

New on-field officials

Officials are shown with the college conference they most recently worked in, their years in the ODP, assignments to a 2021-22 bowl game or conference championship, and spring pro league experience.

*-January college invitational game assignment only, †-development program for former players, §-cancelled bowl game, 🅰️2019 AAF, ❎2020 XFL, ☆currently in USFL

      College Conference ODP Experience 2021-22 bowl game and spring league experience
FJ   Tra Boger SEC 2019-21, 2022* Peach Bowl☆
DJ   Max Causey Pac-12 2018-21, 2022* Cotton Bowl🅰️❎☆
U   Brandon Cruse Big 12 2018-21, 2022* Big 12 Championship Game🅰️❎☆
DJ   Robin DeLorenzo Big Ten 2017-21, 2022* Fiesta Bowl🅰️❎ ☆
U   Duane Heydt ACC 2019-21 National Championship Game☆
U   Alex Moore SEC 2020, 2021* Fenway§
U   Mike Morton ACC 2014, 2015-17, 2018, 2020-21 ACC Championship Game🅰️❎☆
FJ   Alonzo Ramsey ACC 2019-2020, 2021-2022* NFLPA Collegiate Bowl*
SJ   Jeff Shears ACC 2021, 2022* National Championship Game
SJ   Lo Van Pham Big 12 2018-20, 2021-22* Mountain West Championship Game, Holiday Bowl§🅰️❎☆

Leaving the field

      Yrs College Occupation
R 99 Tony Corrente 27 Cal State-Fullerton former college officiating coordinator, retired educator
U 49 Rich Hall 19 Arizona custom cabinetry
U 64 Dan Ferrell 20 Cal State-Fullerton retired logistics and supply chain executive
DJ 134 Ed Camp 22 William Paterson physical education teacher
LJ 84 Mark Steinkerchner 28 Akron vice president
FJ 60 Gary Cavaletto 20 Hancock general manager, agricultural operations
FJ 3 Scott Edwards 23 Alabama environmental engineer
FJ 80 Greg Gautreaux 19 SW Louisiana accounting
FJ 22 Steve Zimmer 25 Hofstra attorney
SJ 5 Jim Quirk 13 Middlebury financial advisor
SJ 73 Joe Larrew 19 St. Louis attorney

 

Updated 6/7: Added the late-reported retirements of Ferrell and Quirk.

Promoted to referee

      Yrs Prev. Pos College Occupation
R 33 Tra Blake 3 Umpire Central Florida software quality assurance manager

Timeline of major offseason events

At the end of May, the officials will gather at the New York Giants training facility for the offseason’s first mini-clinic. At this mini-clinic, physicals will take place, as well as functional movement exams to test balance, endurance, and agility of the officials before they suit up for another season.

This mini-clinic will be followed by visits to clubs’ organized team activities (OTAs), which are scheduled by the clubs, but generally take place in late May and early June.

In mid-July, the entire officiating staff will meet in Dallas for the annual clinic. What can be considered as the officials’ 3-day training camp, the clinic covers film study and discussion over the first two days, including position-specific meetings with an officiating supervisor or position coach. The sessions during the third day are allotted for additional conditioning drills and fitness evaluations in conjunction with the earlier mini-clinics.

And before we know it, August will arrive with the first game of the NFL’s 103rd season: the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, which will take place just two days before the enshrinement of the Hall’s first game official.

It is poised to be a great season for NFL officiating.

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Cameron Filipe
Cam Filipe is a graduate student at Boston University and has been involved in football officiating for ten years. Cam is entering his second season as a high school football official. This is his seventh season covering NFL officiating for Football Zebras.

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