It is here. The NFL is ready to start its 103rd season and there are several things I’m looking for as I zebra-watch this fall.
1. New referee
Tra Blake is the new referee, replacing the retired Tony Corrente. Blake is a referee in his third NFL season after spending his rookie season as a field judge and his second season as an umpire. He worked college as a referee in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and also in the USFL and the XFL.
First-year referees almost never receive a playoff assignment, so we won’t be able to gauge the accuracy of his calls. But, many people will be watching Blake to see if he passes the eye test.
2. Third woman hired
The NFL has hired a third woman on the staff – down judge Robin DeLorenzo. She comes to the NFL from the Big Ten conference. Her final college game was the 2022 Fiesta Bowl.
Rookies are not assigned playoff games, but, like Blake, many will be watching her progress this season.
3. Watching the veteran Thomas and the sophomore Chaka
Maia Chaka begins her second season. She made some big calls in her rookie season, and even got a Call of the Week shout out from us. Will she get her first playoff game this year?
1st year line judge Maia Chaka rules that 1st year quarterback Trey Lance is short of the goal line, and it is our Call of the Week pic.twitter.com/6qsdbRuR0i
— Fᴏᴏᴛʙᴀʟʟ Zᴇʙʀᴀs🇺🇦 (@footballzebras) October 14, 2021
Sarah Thomas was a pioneer being the first full-time woman official hired by the NFL and the first woman to work a Super Bowl (LV). She was assigned as a playoff alternate official last year. Will she return to the field for the playoffs this year?
4. Will the playoffs see the the new overtime rule?
The NFL didn’t change many rules this year, but one will change the overtime procedure in the playoffs. For only the playoffs, both teams are guaranteed one possession in overtime. So, if one team takes the opening kickoff and scores a touchdown, they have to kick off to the other team. The other team gets a chance to tie the game again. The only exception is if the defense scores a safety in the first possession of overtime.
This is done in the interest of fairness. While I wish the NFL never changed the sudden death overtime rule, I also yell at clouds from time to time and my opinion is in the minority.
But, if a team gives up a touchdown in overtime, should they really get a chance to retie the game? Football is a team game – offense, defense and special teams. All three units need to work well to win a game, especially in overtime.
Pardon me, I see a cloud out the window…..
5. Lots of new numbers
There at 10 new officials this season, and two officials changed their numbers. Here are the new officials’ numbers for 2022.
- FJ2 – Tra Boger
- R3 – Tra Blake (was 33, gave the number to Nate Jones)
- U22 – Brandon Cruse
- FJ33 – Nate Jones (This was his jersey number when he played in the NFL)
- U42 – Duane Heydt
- U49 – Alex Moore
- SJ60 – Jeff Shears
- FJ80 – Alonso Ramsey
- DJ84 – Max Causey
- U89 – Mike Morton
- SJ99 – Lo van Pham
- DJ134 – Robin DeLorenzo
Looking to February
And finally, I predict the Super Bowl LVII officiating crew (which is usually the kiss of death).
- Referee: John Hussey
- Umpire: Paul King
- Down judge: Dana McKenzie
- Line judge: Jeff Bergman
- Field judge: Mearl Robinson
- Side judge: Jonah Monroe
- Back judge: Terrence Miles
It’s here! I’m ready to heed the late Red Cashion’s command at the end of every coin toss!