SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The coronavirus pandemic affects the NFL in various ways this year. Not only are players and coaches having to adjust, but referees officiating the game also having to face new protocols.
Many questions have been posed such as:
- Would it be safe to dive into a pile of players after a loose ball?
- Should referees stand in between two players if they’re fighting?
- What if an angry coach approaches?
These are all questions the NFL Referee Association continues to address as many teams look towards week two of the NFL season.
On a normal day, an officiating crew would gather the day before a game at a designated hotel- going through meetings, reviewing video of the upcoming opponents and making technical 'game plans' for how each member of the crew would cover various formations and unique circumstances presented by the teams.
But now this is not the case as the NFLl's coronavirus protocols have eliminated most of that routine. Game assignments are now based on home geography, and the NFL is hoping up to 70% of officials will be able to drive to work each weekend.
All officials also must be tested twice a week, once at their home or business midweek, and once the day before the game using point of care tests.
In terms of masks and whistleblowing, in week one -- unlike players -- officials are required to wear some form of face-covering while on the field.
The most significant change, however, is the handheld electronic whistle that would replace the traditional breath-powered model. This whistle is designed to fit into the ref’s hand and is activated by a thumb button.
The NFL has made it optional, but it's not clear whether the traditional whistle would work underneath a mask. Organizers are continuing to make adjustments with these issues as the season unfolds.