With the end of the lockout between the NFL and the referees association came the possibility of full-time officials for the first time in league history.
Former V.P. of officiating Carl Johnson stepped down from his role in December to return to the field and became the league’s first full-time referee. The league’s competition committee has been meeting this week in Indianapolis in advance of the NFL combine. New V.P. of officiating, Dean Blandino, said in an interview with Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network that the league is looking at increasing its stable of full-time officials.
“We’re looking at possibly going to seven full-time officials, one at each position, and they will work throughout the season and the off-season,” Blandino said. “They’ll be able to go to OTAs, work practices, go to training camp, that type of thing – put together guidelines, mechanics manuals, competition committees like this they could be a part of, so we’re excited about the possibility of full-time officials and what they can bring to the program.”
Johnson is expected to return to his prior role as a line judge for next season. If the league adds a full-time official at all seven position, they would also be adding a referee, umpire, head linesman, field judge, back judge and side judge. Blandino also said the league is looking at creating a developmental program for college officials that will be able to work the NFL during the off-season. Those officials will be able to work during off-season workouts and mini-camps to get a feel for being an NFL official and could even end up working preseason games to get a feel for the game environment before becoming a game official.
All the changes are pointed toward trying to improve the consistency of officiating across the league.
“My whole focus is striving for consistency. I think that’s what everybody wants,” Blandino said. “Coaches, players, owners, officials, we want consistency. We want to be transparent. We’re going to communicate. Whether it’s clubs, whether it’s the media, if we make a mistake we’re going to admit but people have to understand it’s a fast game. It happens quickly and our officials do a tremendous job. Our officials are going to strive for consistency and that’s what everybody wants.”