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Wednesday, September 5
Refereeing can often be full-time job

By John Clayton

A year ago, the NFL Referees Association hired an outside accounting firm to determine if their part-time jobs had full-time considerations.

The firm determined that the job is more involved than just showing up at games on Sundays and officiating for three hours. Ed Hochuli, who heads the NFLRA, goes through a typical NFL week.

"It varies a little bit from official to official, depending upon the position," Hochuli said. "I'm a referee and spend about 15 hours a week reviewing video tape. I look at game tapes which includes the television view, the sideline view and the end zone vew from teams. I have to break that down. I get position tapes. For example, the referees will get referee's tapes that show intentional grounding, offensive holding, illegal hits to the quarterback, chop blocks and things like that."

A lawyer by trade, Hochuli says he spends maybe two hours in the morning and four hours at night doing things related to officiating from Monday to Friday. "All of the officials are looking at the same tapes, seeing calls, because it's a narrow line between what's legal and what's illegal," he said.

Hochuli said he spends a couple of hours a week doing administrative things. He must file reports to the league. He has to write letters on behalf of the league. All are part of his job as a referee.

"Each official has to take a written test every week during the season and every month in the offseason," Hochuli said. "I personally spent an hour a day studying rules. Rules in the NFL are extremely complicated. Rules enforcement in the NFL is extremely complicated. We have a case book that has 1,000 plays. I find in order to stay on top of the rules, I read them all the time."

Most officials on all levels -- high school, college and pros -- read case books to stay current on rules.

Rules in the NFL are extremely complicated. Rules enforcement in the NFL is extremely complicated. We have a case book that has 1,000 plays. I find in order to stay on top of the rules, I read them all the time.
Ed Hochuli, head of NFL Referees Association

"I spent a lot of time on the phone," Hochuli said. "I have to talk to supervisors three to five times a week involving the grading process of officials. Members of the crew spend a lot of time talking to each other during the week. I'll probably talk to the six other members of my crew at least two or three times during the week to talk about rules interpretation."

Overall, that totals about 30 hours a week.

"I consider my conditioning part of the job," Hochuli said. "I have to be fit and have to move around. I consider my appearance important. I should look like an athlete on the field, so I spend a couple hours a day on conditioning."

Hochuli said he also spends time in front of a mirror to make sure he can probably announce calls.

"I think the appearance we portray as referees are very important," Hochuli said. "When you say something, you don't want to be stumbling over your words. I've got a box full of play situations. I'll go over the announcements that need to be made and do the announcements, so when it comes up in games, I say it smoothly and not come out looking like an idiot."

Weekends begin by leaving for the airport at 4:30 a.m for an early flight. On Saturdays before the game, there are meetings throughout the day to review tapes and go over the written tests. At the stadiums, there are meetings before the game.

"Then we'll get home at 11 p.m. on Sunday night," Hochuli said. "We also have random drug and alcohol testing. They might call me at 9 p.m. the night before a game and tell me there will be drug testing in the morning. That might happen three or four times a year. I was tested on the morning of the Super Bowl.

"We don't quarrel about that. No official has ever showed up with a positive test. The league and we are concerned about the integrity of officials. During the offseason, we can't go to Las Vegas or any city with casinos without notifying the league and getting permission. That's all part of the image."

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for

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