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NFL, NFL Referees Association are still negotiating opt-out procedures

Mike Florio and Peter King break down the NFL's plan for COVID-19 testing and explain where the league could run into problems.

The NFL and the NFL Players Association have worked through most if any all of the issues associated with pro football in a pandemic, with a signed agreement coming. The NFL and the NFL Referees Association have not.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL continues to review with the NFLRA the protocols and procedures for officials to opt-out of the season. Prior to any opt-outs occurring, the roster of officials stands at 121.

The goal for any week without byes will be to have at least nine officials not assigned to a game, in the event a replacement is needed. Also, the Thursday and Monday night crews would be on standby, if needed for Sunday. Preparations for 2020 have included a focus on officiating mechanics with crews as small as five.

The league also will assign crews to games in a way that limits travel, as much as possible. Crews will still be used, but they will be formed with a focus on geographic location, with the goal to have as many official as possible drive to a given game site. (It won’t be possible, however, to completely avoid planes.)

Whether that’s enough to convince all or most of the 121 officials to work this season remains to be seen. Given that officials can work more years than players can play, and in light of the fact that most officials are middle-aged or older, it won’t be a surprise if more than a few choose to take a year off.

Then there’s the fact that most if not all officials have other jobs. They won’t go without income if they choose to opt-out, which would be another factor in the decision.