NFL official 'double rookie' with debut as referee
IRVING, Texas (AP) Brad Allen is one of 13 first-year NFL officials this season. Making his debut at football's highest level unique is also being one the league's three first-year referees.
''They're referring to me as a double rookie,'' Allen said Friday night at the NFL officiating clinic.
After being a referee in the Atlantic Coast Conference the past nine seasons, Allen will be the first official since Tommy Bell in 1962 to make his NFL debut as a referee leading his own crew.
''He's worked at the top college level, he's worked the biggest games, he's worked bowl games, he's worked championship games,'' said Dean Blandino, NFL vice president of officiating.
''And the difference between NFL officiating and college officiating, it's getting closer from a rules standpoint. ... And we've surrounded him with a veteran crew.''
Allen was preparing to be an umpire this season after being in the NFL's officiating development program last year. That plan changed with the departure of veteran referee Mike Carey, who hired last month by CBS to provide rules analysis, interpretation and explanations of rules during broadcasts.
The other first-year referees are Craig Wrolstad, who is going into his 12th NFL season, and fifth-year official Rob Torbert.
All the NFL officials are at a Dallas-Fort Worth hotel this weekend for their annual clinic in advance of the season. Taking part are all 119 officials and participants in this year development program, including two women.
Among the games Allen worked during his time on the collegiate level were the 2012 Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl last January.
After getting his new assignment, Allen got a congratulatory call from former NFL referee Jerry Markbreit that also included a blunt reminder.
''He said, `I really enjoyed your work the Rose Bowl in 2012,' and he said, `But kid, every game is the Rose Bowl in the NFL','' Allen said. ''And he's right. So that's the perspective that you have to understand as you go into this.''
Allen said the biggest adjustments for him on the NFL level will be the extra administrative duties and increased time commitment.
NFL referee Walt Coleman, the league's senior game official entering his 26th season, agreed that the biggest challenge for Allen won't be what happens after kickoff.
''All the things you have to deal with, the TV stuff, the security stuff and dealing with the crew and all the places you're going,'' Coleman said. ''He'll be fine, but it's a challenge. I would have hated to think that I came into the National Football League as a referee. I was just happy I came in as a line judge and was above to survive that first year, because things happen really fast.''
During a session with officials Friday afternoon, Blandino reviewed new rules and points of emphasis for the upcoming season, using video examples.
- Officials can now review recovery of a loose ball, something not allowed in the past. One of the examples used was the NFC championship game when San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman stripped the ball from a Seattle receiver and clearly cradled the ball on the ground inside the 49ers 5-yard line. But officials didn't see that before the ball wound up in a pileup and Seattle came out of that with the ball.
- Roll-up blocks from the side of a player will be categorized as clipping and be penalized 15 yards. In the past, only blocks from behind that rolled up on the back of a defender were considered penalties.
- For the standing rule that pass interference applies more than 1 yard beyond the line of scrimmage, Blandino told officials, ''a yard is a yard'' and to call it tight.
- There were several clips shown of defenders grabbing jerseys of receivers while running down the field before the ball was in the air. Teams are being reminded of defensive holding, with plans to more closely enforce that foul.
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