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League remains intent on exploring full-time officials

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Last month, before a playoff game between the Texans and Ravens, Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the league will consider making some of the league’s game officials full-time employees.

The NFL apparently remains intent on doing so.

NFL V.P. of officiating Carl Johnson recently told Bill Lubinger of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the league will engage in an unprecedented effort to consider full-time officials. “This is the first time that we’re really going to examine it in the offseason,” Johnson said.

The measure will meet resistance from officials who currently work other jobs. Some, like long-time referee and attorney Ed Hochuli, have lucrative non-football careers. If they have to choose between the two, they may choose to ditch football.

Then again, the workload may not increase much, in the opinion of some of the men in black, and white. “I think we’re about as full-time as we can get,” said Mark Steinkerchner, who has worked as a game official for 18 years.

John Parry, who served as the referee of Super Bowl XLVI, estimates that he devotes 20 to 30 hours per week on a variety of tasks, including making travel arrangements, studying film, communicating with the league office and his crew, and engaging in other work preceding departure for the game site. League rules require arrival at least 24 hours before kickoff. Time in the city where the game will be played is spent in meetings with the crew and other preparations. Then, the officials have to work the game and travel home and get ready to do it all over again.

Still, while the officials may be working on a full-time basis during the season, much would be gained from having access to the officials in the offseason plus securing their undivided attention during the season. If they’re spending as much time as Parry estimates each week from September through early January, they really shouldn’t be working other jobs.

In the offseason, extra time could be spent studying the rules, working in simulated settings, exercising, and doing other things to prepare for the coming season.

The good news is that the league finally seems to be realizing that the game has gotten far too big to continue with the old ways of doing things. Players quit being part-time employees long ago. It’s time for officials to make that same commitment.