7 NFL On-Field, Replay Officials Reportedly Opting out of Season Amid Pandemic

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 15, 2020

NFL replay assistant Glenn King, from left, poses for an NFL official portrait with side judge Jeff Lamberth, head linesman Patrick Turner, back judge Scott Helverson, referee Craig Wrolstad, field judge Terry Brown, umpire Steven Woods, head linesman Jim Howey and replay official Darryll Lewis before an NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
John Hefti/Associated Press

Five NFL on-field officials and two replay officials have reportedly opted out of the 2020 season as part of an agreement between the league and the Referees Association amid the coronavirus pandemic.

ESPN's Kevin Seifert reported Friday the NFL is expected to add around a "half dozen" new officials to provide depth for the upcoming campaign. He also provided a list of the on-field officials who've opted out:

  • back judge Steve Freeman
  • back judge Tony Steratore
  • field judge Greg Gautreaux
  • field judge Joe Larrew
  • line judge Jeff Bergman

No referees have opted out of the season so far.

The sides reached the opt-out agreement Sunday. Those who decide not to participate this year will receive a $30,000 stipend and a guarantee they'll keep their job for the 2021 season, per Seifert.

NFLRA executive director Scott Green released a statement about the deal.

"There is nothing more important than the health and safety of our members," Green said. "Although there will undoubtedly be some risk for our officials, we are pleased to have finalized a plan with the league that provides additional benefits and protections during this unprecedented season."

Other aspects of the agreement included two coronavirus tests per week, full medical benefits for any officials who test positive for COVID-19 matching those given to an official who's injured on the job, and financial support for officials to return home if they test positive at a game site, per Seifert.

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In addition, the NFL previously announced it was relaxing guidelines for the formation of game-day crews in order to allow officials to work closer to home, within driving distance when possible.

"The 2020 season is going to be different, including for the game officials," NFL senior vice president of officiating training and development Walt Anderson said. "We will continue to adapt and adjust and ensure we are in the best possible position to deliver an outstanding officiating performance."

Rules related to officials being limited to two appearances in games involving any team and a minimum of six weeks between those games have been waived.

The 2020 season is scheduled to kick off Sept. 10 when the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs host the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium.