NFL refs gather in Plano to study rules changes for upcoming season

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PLANO -- Ever since the infamous Dez Bryant no-catch call in 2015, the annual NFL Officiating Clinic held in DFW has had referees playing defense about what constitutes a catch.  But, thanks to a much-needed rule tweak this past spring, they were able to play offense on Friday and promote the positive change as the clinic kicked off in Plano.

"We brought in legends, we brought in coaches, we brought in officials, we brought in supervisors and we said, 'How do we make it better?'" said the NFL's Senior Vice President of Officiating, Al Riveron. "'How do we get these exciting plays back in the game?' I know we've come up with a great rule:  control [of the ball], two feet [inbounds], and the opportunity to perform a football move like a reach or a third step."

The clinic is an opportunity for all 122 game officials to gather and study new rules, changes to existing rules, and points of emphasis for the upcoming season.  Another big change for 2018 will be issuing a 15-yard penalty whenever a player uses his helmet as a battering ram and ejecting players for especially vicious head-on hits.

"It's for safety," said longtime head referee Walt Coleman.  "That's why they put it in, it's for the safety of the players.  It's important that everybody adjusts their style [of tackling]."

Kickoffs have also undergone changes in the name of player safety.  It's a lot for refs to remember, but that's why the clinic exists.

"My ultimate goal is to get [calls] right," says Riveron.  "We're not going to get it right all the time; we're not.  But we have to be consistent."

"People don't recognize it but there are three teams out there on the field," added Coleman.  "There are the two football teams and a team of officials.  And we want to be the best team out there."

They may not be able to win, but fans of all teams should be able to root for that!

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