I wanted to take a moment today to take a step back from the micro lens of the Pittsburgh Steelers and catch up on some broader issues as it pertains to the game, and both topics that I would like to discuss are ones that I have delved into in the past.
There are two topics that have been getting a lot of traction in NFL circles recently. One is the possibility of actually moving toward having an officiating staff that consists of full-time, rather than part-time, employees. The other topic being kicked around over the course of recent months is the subject of use of marijuana among players. Let’s start with the latter.
On the heels of multiple states around the country on Tuesday night voting to expand the legal use of either medicinal or recreational marijuana—which affects five teams in the league, based on where those teams play—the NFLPA has said yesterday through assistant executive director of internal affairs George Attalah that they “are actively looking at the issue of pain management of our players. And studying marijuana as a substance under that context is the direction we are focused on”.
Attalah was cautious in his comments, focusing on the fact that “marijuana is still governed by our collective bargaining agreement”, but the issue has had some high-profile advocates recently, most notably former Pro Bowl offensive lineman Eugene Monroe, who recently retired and has become an advocate for legal marijuana use as well as for its benefits in pain management as an alternative to opioids, which according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine took the lives of nearly 20,000 Americans in 2014.
While the issue of pain management is more of an off the field topic, on-field officiating is very much a part of every NFL game, and if we’re being honest, it is rare for officials to be made note of unless they are making mistakes—or seemingly taking the opportunity to show off their biceps, in one particular case.
Former head of officiating Mike Pereira is not very high on the idea, saying, “I can’t fathom what a side judge would do all week to get better and make calls on Sunday. Read the rule book? Watch a lot more tape?”
It seems to be an odd series of questions from Pereira, at least to me, and the obvious answers to his questions from my perspective are “yes” and “yes”. According to Pro Football Talk, however, a league source pointed out some of the roles that a full-time official could play during the week.
The source told Mike Florio that officials who do not have to have day jobs during the week can be assigned to work practices for teams during the week, which to me sounds like an awfully good idea…especially with the Steelers’ penalty issues lately. The source also talked about using virtual reality simulators to expose officials to all possible scenarios.