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The NFL roster of 124 game officials for the 2017 season includes eight first-year NFL officials.
Line judges Brian Bolinger (Big Ten), Mike Carr (Big Ten) and Danny Short (ACC), side judge Ryan Dickson (Pac-12), down judge David Oliver (SEC), field judges Mearl Robinson (Pac-12) and Brad Rogers (SEC) and umpire Steve Woods (Big Ten) will make their NFL officiating debuts this season.
All 17 referees from 2016 will return to lead seven-person on-field officiating crews again in 2017, led by the dean of NFL officials, Walt Coleman, who enters his 29th season.
An instant replay official will work as part of each of the 17 officiating crews, including Terri Valenti, who becomes the first female replay official in NFL history. Valenti has worked in instant replay for the NFL for the past five seasons, serving as a replay communicator from 2012-15 and a replay assistant in 2016 before being promoted to her current position. Prior to turning her focus to replay, Valenti was an on-field official at the high school, collegiate and professional level (Arena Football League, United Football League), as well as in various international football leagues.
Five officials will not be assigned to crews and will work with different crews throughout the season. In addition to these five officials, more officials will rotate among crews to ensure the most consistent officiating across the league.
Twelve officials will work at new positions this season to capitalize on the particular strengths of each official and to balance the needs of the overall officiating staff.
Starting in 2017, the “head linesman” position will be called “down judge” to more accurately depict the primary responsibility of the role — ensuring the correct down and distance — and to eliminate the gender-based classification of the position.
Three sets of fathers and sons are among the roster of officials — Coleman and his son, Walt IV; Ed Hochuli and his son, Shawn; and Steve Freeman and his son, Brad. — and four sets of brothers – Allen and Rusty Baynes; Jeff and Jerry Bergman; Carl, Dino & Perry Paganelli; and Gene and Tony Steratore.
Steve Freeman and Phil McKinnely are the only current game officials to have played in the NFL. Freeman played for 13 seasons, including 12 as a defensive back with the Buffalo Bills from 1975–86. McKinnely played seven seasons as an offensive lineman from 1976–82, including five seasons with the Atlanta Falcons from 1976–80.