The NFL has a shortage of officials this season -- for now. The league announced Friday seven officials have opted out of the 2020 season amid coronavirus concerns. Officials had until Thursday to opt out for the year.
Five on-field officials have elected to take a leave of absence for the 2020 season: Jeff Bergman (line judge), Steve Freeman (back judge), Greg Gautreaux (field judge), Joe Larrew (field judge), and Tony Steratore (back judge). The two other officials were replay officials and were not named in the NFL Operations release.
Any officials who opted out in 2020 were guaranteed their jobs for the 2021 season and received $30,000, per the agreement between the NFL and NFL Referee Association.
If a game official tests positive for COVID-19 during the season, it will be treated as an injury that was sustained while performing a "league-sanctioned or requited activity." The official will then be entitled to injury pay, medical expenses and other applicable benefits. If an official tests positive for COVID-19, or shows signs of illness at a game site, medical expenses, lodging and travel expenses will be covered by the league.
The league also announced additional officials will be hired in the days ahead, ensuring a full roster for the 2020 season. This year, the NFL is assigning officiating crews based on geography, limiting travel and allowing individual officials to drive to as many games as possible. The NFL also announced earlier this week the guidelines which officials do not officiate a game involving the same team more than twice in a season, and usually at least six weeks between such games, would be waived as a result of the geographical assignments. Officials will likely officiate multiple games involving the same team, but these procedures are only in place for 2020.
The NFL suspended the full-time officiating program last season, so all the officials are part-time employees.