The annual NFL Officiating Clinic takes place July 17–19 in Irving, Texas. The three-day meeting is the culmination of the league’s summer clinics and serves as the final opportunity to ensure that the league and its 122 game officials — including 10 first-year officialsare on the same page going into the 2015 preseason.

NFL Vice President of Officiating, Dean Blandino, begins a training session during the 2014 Annual NFL Officiating Clinic in Irving, Texas.

NFL Vice President of Officiating, Dean Blandino, begins a training session during the 2014 Annual NFL Officiating Clinic in Irving, Texas.

In May, the league’s Officiating Department, led by Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino, brought the officials to Newark, New Jersey, to focus on the physical aspects of officiating. This weekend, the officials have gathered to focus on what’s new for 2015, how well they know the rules of the game and how to conduct themselves professionally on and off the field.

New this year: the medical time-out. The Competition Committee voted to allow the ATC spotter — the independent certified athletic trainer located in the press box — to contact an on-field official to stop the game and make sure that a potentially injured player receives treatment. The medical time-out will only be called if the game officials and team trainers fail to notice a potential injury.

Blandino and his team will also outline rule modifications designed to protect players from unnecessary risk. These include:

  • Giving additional protection to the intended receiver of a pass following an interception or potential interception
  • Extending the prohibition for an illegal peel-back block to all offensive players.
  • Eliminating all chop blocks involving a back
  • Prohibiting defenders from pushing teammates into the offensive formation on punt plays
  • Moving the snap for an extra point kick to the 15-yard line

Each season, the league focuses on points of emphasis to address and stem undesirable trends in the game. This year, these include:

  • Eliminating abusive, threatening or insulting language directed at opponents, teammates, game officials or league representatives, including racial slurs, comments regarding sexual orientation or other verbal abuse
  • Eliminating fighting
  • Prohibiting players from pulling opponents off a pile following a loose ball
  • Understanding the language that provides more clarity to the rule pertaining to what constitutes a catch

The officials will take three tests over the weekend: an individual written exam, an individual video exam and a collaborative exam with the other members of their crew. Each official needs to possess a total mastery of the rules — to excel on all three.

To further reinforce their on-field responsibilities, the officials will participate in a series of breakout sessions by position that will emphasize mechanics — including new mechanics for eight-member crews, an experiment that will be tried in the second week of the preseason. They’ll get hands-on experience with new instant-replay hardware and software. Also to be discussed is the need for improved communications during the game, both between each member of the officiating crew and with coaches on the sidelines.

Finally, the officials will go over the results of their exams and revisit the performance and wellness topics covered in May. NFL Player Engagement’s Director of Transition and Clinical Services, will lead a session on domestic violence and sexual assault awareness to give officials the same education and training that all NFL players and employees of the league and each club receive on these issues.

While the NFL Officiating Department evaluates and provides feedback to its officials throughout the season, the annual NFL Officiating Clinic enables both groups to get in synch before the season begins.

Learn more about how the NFL develops its officials.