NFL refs stick together through season
In a recent issue of the MT, there was a photo of a local teacher who works as an NFL referee during the football season. I have a couple of questions related to that. No. 1, do the same group of referees work as a team throughout the entire season? And No. 2, do they rotate position assignments from game to game, the same way baseball umpires do?
— Robert J., Ashland
Indeed, one of our own — Talent Middle School Principal Aaron Santi — was chosen to be one of eight new NFL officials this year after refereeing in the Pac-12 for the past 12 seasons.
According to nfl.com, seven-person crews work with each other throughout the season, although three veteran officials among the 122 total officials traditionally swing among crews.
Santi is a field judge as part of referee Ron Torbert's crew, which also includes back judge Greg Yette, line judge Mark Steinkerchner, umpire Carl Paganelli, head linesman Jim Howey and side judge James Coleman.
According to Dream Jobs in Sports Refereeing, a book by Larry Gerber, officials specialize in their positions. Santi is positioned in the defensive backfield, 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage toward the same side of the field as the line judge. His general duties include watching the receiver split widest on his side of the field for illegal use of the hands and blocking fouls and for penalties committed by the defensive back covering him; watching the sidelines to determine if runners are in or out of bounds; and counting the number of defensive players on the field.
All of that while watching — and avoiding being run over by — a lot of very large and very fast men and being yelled at by everyone from the sideline coaches to little old ladies and inebriated men in the stands. So it's a good thing the refereeing teams stick together; they need the support.
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