The NFL’s officials will have a harder time getting ready for the 2020 season, given that they won’t have the benefit of a preseason or the ability to work at training camps. When the regular season begins, they also likely won’t have the benefit of help from the replay assistant.
In late May, the NFL’s owners approved expanded duties for the replay assistant during the preseason, with the understanding that, before the start of the regular season, some or all of the expanded duties would be used in the regular season. So with no preseason at all, what happens to the expanded duties of the replay assistant?
At this point, it’s unknown; the NFL did not respond to an email from PFT seeking information on this point.
As crafted by the owners, the replay assistant would have been able during the preseason to assist the officiating crew in six areas, when the process is initiated by the referee: (1) game administration; (2) complete, incomplete, or intercepted pass; (3) touching of a loose ball, boundary line, goal line, or end line; (4) location of the ball in relation to a boundary line, the line of scrimmage, the line to gain, or the goal line; (5) down by contact, if the rule was not ruled down by contact on the field; and (6) status of the game clock subject to the limitations in Rule 15, Section 3, Article 9 (Item 1) regarding when time on the game clock can be restored.
With much bigger challenges facing the league as it prepares to try to play 256 regular-season games, this replay-assistant experiment becomes a luxury on which the NFL quite possibly can’t afford to pay attention. Given the inability to get officials ready for the season, accurate calls also may be a luxury on which the NFL can’t afford to pay attention.
That said, 256 games rife with officiating mistakes is a lot better than zero games with none.