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  • ✪ Life in the NFL: Behind the Scenes of The National Football League


Ok armchair quarterbacks and those of you who know that this is a football and not much else it's time to learn a little more about football welcome to the massachusetts school of law educational forum come along with us as we look at the nfl behind the scenes lets start with something you know the players to help us with that is Matthew Slater Matthew is the captain of the New England patriots and during my research and during my research on Matthew I found a Wikipedia reference that said in addition to being a pro bowl football player and son of NFL Hall of Fame member Jackie Slater that he was the world's greatest rock climber for real? You didn't know that about me? Do you, are you a great rock climber because that's something I didn't know, I doubt most people did. I can't take credit for that I'm not a good rock climber no? I've maybe been rock climbing twice in my life on little artificial ones so... someone has given some false information there. What's it like to be a gunner on a football team? It's a great name it is, it is a great name. Well you know it's something that is very challenging often times it's a two on one street fight, that's how Iike to explain it but it's something that I really enjoy doing i have a lot of fun. The competitor in me just loves the opportunity to go out there and go against two guys. You're obviously very good at it you're an all pro, a special teamer, you're captain of the patriots, tell me about your transition from college to the pro game. You know, it was a difficult one. Obviously for me I grew up in Southern California and as a 22 year old young man I had to move across the country to Boston, to the Boston area so that was a big adjustment. And obviously the game, the game is very different at this level. The speed of the game, the intellect of the game, it's a totally different game then the college game, so I had my growing pains along the way but I've been fortunate enough to have some good people around me a great coach and great team mates over the years and I've survived up to this point. As one of the few children of a hall of famer what's it like to have to fill those shoes cuz that has to be pretty big footsteps you're following You know it's been challenging at times, fortunately for me my father has made that easy, you know, he's never put pressure on me to be like him, he actually didn't want me playing football because he didn't want me getting hurt. He's been very supportive of my career. He's been very, just you know, complimentary along the way, one of my biggest fans. And he's really taken a step back and he's enjoyed playing the role of Matthew's dad instead of Jackie Slater so i really appreciate that. How hard has it been to really make it in the NFL? Most of us see the Pro Football players as these huge mammoth guys and you're not that big but you're obviously fast and tough and you have a lot of other components. How hard was it to make it in the NFL? You know it's been very difficult. These are some of the best athletes in the world that you're going against, some of the best coaches in the world that you're facing week in week out so there are challenges that present themselves every day. And like I said I really feel like I've had great people around me. I really feel like my faith in God has helped me a lot and I've just been really blessed to get to this point. It's not all me and my doing, it's a group effort, it really is. And the challenges aren't just on the football field or in preparation for it but all the other security issues and personal issues that are attached to it as well. How does the NFL help you face some of those other issues that come off the field for people with fame and fortune of being a professional football player? Well you hit it on the head. There are a lot of issues that you face. It's more, unfortunately than just playing football, but we have a league that has really gone out of its way to try and protect the players from some of the dangers out there. We have our player engagement director, Kevin Anderson, who does a great job of educating the young players as far as what to expect, what comes along with, uh, a big paycheck, what comes along with fame and attention, trying to be disciplined in certain areas of your life. The NFL, they have a number of programs out there starting with the symposium when you come in that try to educate the players of you know these are some of the hazards and obstacles that you might face and here's how you can defeat those and I think they do a great job of that. What was the hardest part off the field in transitioning from the college game to the pro game with respect to all the multitudes of distractions that must come with being a pro athlete? I think for me it was learning how to say no. You're asked to do so many different things. You're asked maybe to borrow money, people want to borrow money. You're asked to make appearances and you have to learn how to say no. And for me that was a tough thing because I don't want to be seen as a rude guy or a guy that's not willing to help out but there's just so many demands on your play that you have to pick and choose which ones are important to you, which ones you can do without conflicting with your football schedule, and once you find that balance I think you'll be able to have some success from there, but finding that balance to say no and yes is big. What educational services have you taken advantage of since entering the league with respect to what the NFL provides for the various bootcamps and training for people to start to not make the transition just yet we can get to that but what educational services have you taken advantage of? Well there have been a number of them starting with the symposium coming into the league and I've always been a guy that's tried to maintain a relationship with our player engagement director. I'm also a member of our union so I've really been able to learn a lot from that side of things, being involved with the Union and being involved with some of the decision making that goes on behind the scenes. I've also participated in the Rookie symposium as a speaker, trying to educate some of those young guys so I think for me just being involved, being aware of what was going on around me was important as opposed to just letting things go on that I had no clue I think just educating myself through involvement was important. Lets talk about the Union for a minute. You've been a player rep with the Union as well? Yes sir. How active is the union in trying to ensure the players receive the benefits they're entitled to and the services they need through the various programs that the NFL provides? That's really their top priority. They want to make sure that our players get fair treatment, that our players are educated as far as what's available to them, post career, during their career and they really went out of their way in our last negotiation to ensure that the players were getting taken care of, so to speak, as far as benefits are concerned, as far as health and safety is concerned. As far as even continuing education, post career so the union their number one priority is taking care of the players on and off the football field and I think they do a great job of that. You know we hear of the fights between the Union and the NFL at the times when it blows up, but how closely do they work together to benefit the players? Listen, that's part of it. That's part of labor relations, things are going to happen, you know with business so we all understand that. And really it wouldn't have gotten done if cooler heads hadn't prevailed so cooler heads prevailed we were able to come together. We had some great leadership on both sides of the fence that made things happen and has our game as successful as it's ever been now. What advice do you give when you participate in the symposium for the new players, what advice do you have to help ease their transition? I think the biggest thing as a new player is first things first, focus on football, because if you're not taking care of your business on the football field you're not going to be around very long. And then from there I think learning to balance your finances and how you spend is big you hear the horror stories of guys who have blown away fortunes, and some of that is not all their fault. You have to wise in your decision making, you have to be careful, you have to do your due diligence when it comes to certain things and I think that's what try to encourage young guys you know, when you leave this game you'd like to be able to have something to show for it. We have a tremendous opportunity. It's the best part time job you'll ever have as far as giving yourself a head start into life and your next career. Does the NFL provide benefits with respect to financial education for players with respect to how they should invest, how they should spend and how they should think about what happens after their days on the field are over? No question. Again I'll go back to our player engagement director Kevin Anderson and what you do as a rookie is you have pretty much meeting year round and these meeting educate you in a number of different fields but a big one is finance field because it's such a big issue for our young players. And they have us speak with financial advisors, planners etc. as far as decision making when it comes to your money. The NFL and the union have financial advisors that they have approved of that they will refer to guys so they really do a great job of making sure that, you know young men, we know this is a big responsibility upon you but we're going to do everything we can to help you be successful in managing those finances. If uh one of your players is having issues or you become aware that they're having issues is there advice you give them, or do you give them direction or is there someone else that they can turn to with respect to whatever it is they may be experiencing whether its finances or otherwise? I think it all depends on the situation and your relationship with that player. Some guys you may sit down and talk to and kind of share your experience, some guys you may refer to Kevin Anderson again and some of the players and outlets that we have as far as our league so it just depends on who the guy is, what the situation is. There are a number of different courses of actions that you can take when those situations arise. If you had to experience the transition over again, what would you do differently then you did in 2008 or 9 when you entered the league? Uh, wow that's a good question. I had to learn the hard way to say no, i'll go back to that. I really tried to do too much I think early on I really um could have done a better job of balancing my priorities and deciding what was important to me but some of that you have to learn through experience and I learned that fortunately and I've been able to clean some of those areas up. Do you have safety or security issues for your own family and those close to you that come as a result of being a professional football player with the New England Patriots? You know fortunately I haven't and we have a great director of security here and whenever an issue arises we can run it by him. He's always available with sound advice and I know guys have had personal security when they've gone out but fortunately I've never had an issue here in New England, I've never had an issue back in my home town in Southern California and I think a lot of that comes down to decision making, the people you hang around, the places you go, all that factors into you being safe as an NFL player. Does social media play an additional risk that didn't take place during your dad's time that you have to be especially aware of, the dangers and risks that are attached to that? No question. I think a whole different set of problems come along with the social media. Obviously they can be used for great things, for getting a positive message out there, for promoting your brand but I think you have to be really cautious about what you put out there what information you give. Me personally I don't have any social media but I know that a lot of my teammates do and it's all how you use it. It can be used to do as I said great things but you just have to be sound in your decision making when it comes to that. What services does the NFL provide for players to start to think about the transition from being a professional football player to the next decade of their life and their professional career? Well there are a number of programs that they have during the off season where you can intern or job shadow, I think you mentioned earlier broadcast bootcamp and there are a number of programs where you can continue your education. They have continuing education programs that they offer at Harvard and Stanford where you can go in there for a period of time and take some advanced courses. So they always are operating within a long term vision understanding that the average NFL career is only 3.1 years you have to be ready to transition at any point. I think they do a good job of having those resources there for us, allowing us to get some unique experience as far as the job shadowing and things like that and operating with they thought of hey, I'm only going to be doing this for a short period of time, i've got to be ready to move on at some point. I saw a music boot camp a hollywood boot camp a franchise boot camp, the ones you mentioned as well. What's the next chapter of Matthew Slater's life when football's over? I've always had a passion for ministry I've always enjoyed working with the young people and I think I'd like to be involved in full time ministry in some capacity whether its with young people or its counseling or whatnot, that's something that I really hold dear, my faith, and thats kind of the filter through which I make all my decisions so hopefully lord willing I play a few more years before I have to make that decision but that's what I think I want to do after football's over with. That's amazing. That's fantastic. Congratulations. Thank you very much. So, are you going to stay in this area? Will you return to Southern California or where would you likely do that type of work? You know that remains to be seen, you know I've really grown fond of this area, being here six years now. I didn't think I'd ever say that with the weather the way it is but I've been able to have some great relationships and meet some really great people out here, so we'll see. When you're ready to make a difference in the world, one law school can make a difference for you, The Massachusetts School of Law is where you learn to become a lawyer. As the most affordable law school in New England you'll graduate with the most professional skills and the least amount of debt. Our small classes ensure a rich learning experience and a campus environment so special our students don't want to leave. The Massachusetts School of Law, we're ready to make a difference for you. Visit us today at As you may think there aren't a lot of women involved in the NFL. Yes I know you know about the cheerleaders who work enormously hard to promote the NFL. Our trial team members met some of the Patriots cheerleaders at the airport in San Francisco while the cheerleaders were on their way to China to promote the Patriots and the NFL brand. But what about the women who work behind the scenes? One of those talented women is attorney Deana Garner. She was a prosecutor in Indianapolis Indiana, worked with the NCAA for many years and then moved to the NFL security office. Deana now works in the player engagement office of the NFL. How do they help the plays? So we're a service department. So we assist these young men with their entire experience whether they are at the high school level and understanding fundamentals we have camps and clinics we also have leadership development programs to assist not only football student athletes, but also athletes um at the high school and collegiate level in becoming good people and being leaders and using their athleticism plus their academics to be successful in life because I do believe that sports can assist people in a lot of ways in being better prepared for the hardships that life you might have to face and when you play team sports it definitely helps when you are able to be a part of a team so through our department we try to make sure that the young people's experience and then those who can and do make it to the NFL, that it's seamless, that they have great information prior to coming and then while they're in the National Football League as active NFL players they understand the breadth of what is available to them in the way of resources and services so that they can successfully transition. And then for former players or legends we still assist them because they are still part of the family. so we went to make sure that their journey and their transition is as fulfilling as it can be. Lets talk about the different educational services because I wasn't aware that at the high school and college level the NFL does provide educational services and not just to the male athletes but to the females as well. What services do they provide to that audience? Sure, so we have a few programs. Our prep platform is where we really concentrate our outreach efforts on high school and college leadership development. We have a program called the leadership prep 100 series which is basically a one day, half day clinic, football skills and drills the target audience is high school football student athletes they're mostly all male student athletes. And then the other half of the time of that particular program is spent in the classroom with them, their parents and their athletic administrators or coaches and explaining to them and partnering with the National Collegiate Athletic Association so that they understand the initial eligibility rules and requirements so that they can become academically successful as well as being able to still participate in sport as a student athlete while in college. And then we have former players and active player engagement directors and active players who participate on a panel to talk with about leadership and to talk to them about transition and it's never too early in our realm that we work in, we feel that it's never too early to understand that transition applies to various aspects of your life so it's very appropriate for us to give that type of transition discussion to not only the student athletes but also their parents and their guardians and the administrators. And then we have other programs for high school student athletes that address a cross specter of people and we have females that are involved in that and we have a one day program called a career in sports exposition and thats a one day program that we have around the draft and the super bowl, where we show and expose the young people that participate in the geographic region where the draft or the super bowl is being hosted so we work with a non-profit agency to basically canvas the area where the event is going to take place and we have a series of panels where we have active and former players as well as other athletics administrators from the college side to the professional side and really the goal is to expose these young people while they're still in high school about the opportunities that sports will afford people so that they're not just locked in oh you know I want to be in the NBA you know I want to go to school one year and then I want to be in the NBA or I want to come into the NFL and they are only focused on playing when in actuality they don't probably have much of a frame of reference about what is all involved in sports. And so it's been really interesting. The NFL prep focuses on six core areas. Academic excellence, right financial literacy, character development, conflict resolution, communication and health safety and wellness. Yes. And that extends both for the students in high school and college then the new entrants into the NFL and then even as folks start to transition into their next career, that is correct The NFL provides education in all those areas to all those different groups. correct As well as to the spouses and significant others for active players and former players. We have what we call transition assistance programs for former players or the legends where we really assist them with you know you're not just physically transitioning off the field into main stream live, but you're transitioning in all aspects of that so we work with them, and have people who are experts in dealing with the physical the emotional psychological the full specter of everything that you experience as you transition from one field of life into the next and we also feel its very important because most of these men are mature at that time and we feel that it is very important for their significant others to be a part of that process so spouses are also invited to partake of those programs that we have available. How frequently do players and their spouses and significant others take advantage of the service? I'd say often but certainly not as often as I mean I can't tell you that 100 percent is achieved but we certainly have great made some great inroads and I think it's in part, I know it's in part because of the staff, again our department is a service department. And also the fact that the league is committed so we have five former players that actually work in the department and work in various aspects of the league which is extremely helpful because they have a core network of their piers that they communicate with on a regular basis many of whom have already transitioned who may not call me and say hey Deana I have some concerns about you know the transition issue that I'm dealing with but they may call James Thrash or they may call Dwight Hollier they may call David Tyree, they may call Patrick Kerney or often times they call Troy Vincent. So it's wonderful to have these former, or Legends I work alongside with that are funneling the communications so that we can assist these people and these men and their families as they go through life. And because of their fame and perceived fortune they're relatively easy targets for those who would want to prey on right people who would try and take advantage of them what services does the NFL provide to try and help make sure that they are aware of the dangers of their status? Sure. We have some wonderful programs. Our security department is bar none a phenomenal group of people and they are dedicated to making sure that not only are the players, but the players and their families are well taken care of and cared for and if they're going to invest a dollar in hiring a nanny or a contractor or investing any money we go out and we communicate with them. When I say we our department as well as the security department talks to all 32 clubs we talk to the players we talk to the coaches we talk to the administration to let them know about the robust services. So basically the spectrum of the services entails business background checks, due diligence background checks home security surveys where the security professional will come to your residence and will do an assessment of what the structure that you have should look like from a security perspective and then gives you basically all this information in writing and then it's up to you as the home owner to determine what you feel most comfortable with but that whole assessment is free of charge. All the security services that are offered from the NFL are free of charge because we care and because the league cares and is committed to making sure that as you said the men and their families are not preyed upon. We have robust services that assist players and club personnel key club personnel including coaches and their families especially during the off season so when they're not in the building as we are today and they're traveling with their families if they are going to go outside of the United States we have international security travel assistance where we can give the state department alerts we can give contacts in a different venue so that people will know before players or the head coach is going to be traveling to a specific venue in the event that something happens then they have already had those pre-checks communicated in an effective way. We also have programs where we assist our players as well as club personnel with social media. And the NFL rules with respect to how much before games and the like that players can interact with social media as well. yes that's correct. There is a whole social media component that is communicated to the players to their family by our PR department. And every year there is a presentation that is then put together in a video that's sent out to all 32 teams and then there's mandatory communications training that the pr department reps communicate to the players and work with them in a proactive way and explain to them here's how you can work very cooperatively with the media, here's how you can be mindful of your communications style as well as your obligation and make sure you're meeting your obligation then just be careful of some of these other areas of concern so they'll work directly with players offline as well as well as work directly with them as it relates to their specific responsibilities. So since the career of and NFL player is a relatively short one as a professional football player how does the NFL help players transition to the next part of their professional life? Well while they're actively playing we have a series of mandatory programs as well as other programs to assist with the transition so the first i'll just start with the mandatory. So we for the drafter players every June we have what we call the Rookie Symposium and its for all of the drafted rookies to attend and it's basically a three and half day life skills summit where there are different panel discussions about policy, players who lost their money, players who had some challenges transitioning, players who have successfully transitioned and we feel as though our model is using peer to peer communication because you can live it you can see it when the person who is communicating with you has experiences what you are already experiencing maybe not to the same level and then we partner that with other obviously professionals who might not be players. And then during the off season there are mandatory programs that the security program goes out and communicates to the teams to the full teams of players as well as coaches and other administrators. And then during the season there are mandatory programs for the rookies they're nine week continuation of life skills training to assist them in acclimatizing them to you're not in college you are now a professional. As a professional there are new programs that you mr new professional need to be aware of so assisting them with financial wellness and safety as well as what you might think is a bit mundane so you have a person who maybe is from the west coast that now is going to be a player with the New England patriots some things that we have built into the programming like helping this young man understand you have to get your drivers license changed over because you're working now. You're living in another state that requires you to be to have a registered drivers license if you are driving a vehicle. Making sure that they understand with how to deal with differences in climate and how to fix your car. And then there are other programs on your personal relationships and how to have healthy relationships and what an unhealthy relationship might look like. And then how to activate the services how to understand how to work with a person like Kevin Anderson whose the director of player engagement. What his function is explaining all that to them as part of this curricula and then for the players who are more veteran or senior we have professional development so there is a professional development opportunity that is required. Some teams have others that are not mandatory but because the players are interested and want to participate and sometimes those might look like player former player panels and maybe former players who've transitioned well, former players who have not transitioned well and allowing for the active veterans as well as the younger players to really communicate back and forth with them about what were the stumbling blocks that you had. How did you overcome them. How were you able to be successful. How do you build a resume. So we talk about a lot of different things that sometimes people like yourself and myself since we're lawyers we would have already built our resume when we were in college then going into law school. For a lot of our players they're learning while they're on the job because the average age is 22 coming into the national football league. We also work with Lee Hecht Harrison and they assist players with resume building as well as interviewing skills and techniques and how to present themselves when they're working with say a fortune 500 company. Because often times the players they're transitioning from college into a professional environment maybe not have had those types of experiences on a regular basis so the whole concept of how to communicate effectively when you are talking to an owner of a Fortune 500 company is not something that they are going to have received in a class. Now uh we know often times players will go into broadcasting. What are other fields in law or medicine, politics do players go into as well? The Full spectrum I there was one young man who currently plays now who during his off season so during february march april he wants to own his own franchise so he worked at a store a shoe store because he wanted to learn the business from the ground up. So we have the full spectrum of interests just like anybody else we've got architects we've got people in the music industry we have people that love to cook that also happen to love to play football we have artists we have performers I mean the full spectrum. For 25 years Massachusetts School of Law has been training great lawyers and building great relationships. Joining MSL was more than just making friends it was becoming a part of the family that makes it very difficult to leave. I don't want to leave MSL. We didn't want to leave MSL Evah. Best decision ever. We love MSL. We don't want to leave. The Massachusetts school of law. Great lawyers, better people. Come visit us today at Geez get some glasses ref. Yes the job looks real easy from where we sit but how do this guys, and for now, it's just guys, get started. Dean Blandino started out as an intern in 1994 for the NFL officiating department right out of college. In 2013 he became vice-president of officiating. Here's Dean Blandino. We have an extensive scouting program. We have regional scouts all over the country and we actually go out and we scout lower level games, high school games lower level college games and we recruit younger officials and we bring them into our scouting program. Once they're in our program then we monitor their progress and we have what we call an advanced development program and so once those officials get to a certain point where we feel that they are ready to take the next step we bring them into that program. They actually work NFL pre-season games they go to training camp off season training activities things like that so we can get a closer look at them and they can get a feel for what NFL officiating is about the speed of the game the rules of the game and we have a group of 21 officials that are in our advanced development program and thats the group that we when we have openings in the league pull from that group to go into the NFL. In the officials that you are scouting, is there women among them because after all we women, we buy your apparel we watch your game and we're not likely to play on your field. Absolutely we have several women in our pipeline. We have a lot of women that are officiating football and we have several that are moving to the top level we have one, Sarah Thomas who is in our advanced development program. She's a college official right now in conference USA , so she's at the top of our scouting program so Sarah if she continues to develop will have a pretty good chance of getting into the NFL pretty soon. So we do have a lot of female officials and that's an initiative to try and go out and find women that are interested in football and hey maybe officiating could be a good path I would love to see that so congratulations on that. Discuss officiating a sunday game. What is that like? Well officiating the sunday game I think if you asked any of our officials the three hours from kick-off to the end of the game are that's the best part of what they do there is so much other stuff in preparation and the training and the film study but those three hours it's like that's their sanctuary and there's a lot going on there's a lot of stuff that they have to manage not just between the whistles but with TV with game operations and all of that stuff so it kind of comes together. There's a lot of preparation but those three hours that's the fun part. How do you attempt to ensure consistency among calls? Consistency, that's the magic word. That's if you talk to coaches players fans we all want consistency from game to game from official to official from crew to crew. So it's through communication film study and really what we do our overall evaluation, evaluation process and it starts here in this office. And so if we're consistent with how we evaluate our officials then they will go out and hopefully officiate the game consistently. So there's a lot of things that go into it but thats how my main goal is certainly consistency because we're going to make mistakes, it happens but we have to be able to learn from those mistakes and make sure we don't repeat them. Discuss if you would ethnic diversity in officiating and how that might contribute to at least perceived consistency if not in fact real consistency. Sure so ethnic diversity is a core value of the NFL and is something that we take very seriously in officiating so we're always looking for officials from diverse backgrounds and so we have a lot of candidates coming through the ranks whether its minority officials that we try to train and bring into the league when their ready. Now we want it's a balance we want the best officials but we also want a diverse group of official. Um I don't think there's any difference in terms of or perceived difference in terms of performance um in that within that group I think its something we look at our entire staff of our 119 officials and when we're talking about consistency we want them to officiate to the same level we want them to officiate under the same guidelines so I really don't think there is a perceived or real difference in consistency but diversity is very important to us and one of our priorities. Oh thats wonderful to hear. Besides the players and coaches officials are your most visible people on the field. Do they tend to develop big egos and if so how do you deal with that? Thats a great question. We have actually where we run into that a little bit is with our referees so head referees cuz they are the face of the crew they're making the announcements so most of our referees are great everyone has a little bit of an ego you get to that point you're a successful person you probably have a little bit of an ego but officiating, the best officials are neither seen nor heard. The best officiated games is when you don't even realize they're out there. So we certainly have that balance. We want officials to be ambassadors for the league and that's important so when they're out there they put their best foot forward and present well but we also don't want them to be center of attention because if officiating is the center of attention that's not a good thing. We are here as you alluded to in your beautiful NFL command center here in New York. Much different then I would have anticipated. Look at all these chairs and tv's . Explain what goes on here on Sunday. Yeah, this is this is really the nerve center of the NFL on Sundays. So we're monitoring every game that's going on. We're watching the tv broadcasts. We're listening in to the announcers. I'm here and I can monitor all the different games I can get a heads up on what's happening if there's a controversial play if there is a significant injury if there's something that i know I'm going to have to address during the week I've already got a leg up because I've seen it happen live and I can start to gather the information. We have two way communication with the networks so if the announcers are saying something and maybe they are misinterpreting a rule I can get on the phone and communicate directly with the tv network to explain to them the proper interpretation and they can hopefully correct themselves on the air. One of the things that I would imagine presents a real problem for you is people now sitting in their living rooms on the couch with their high definition TVs they have a great view of the game so they think they can make the calls right there from their living rooms. So is that some of the reason instant replay came about and how do you deal with the home quarterback and the home official? Absolutely so technology has certainly driven a lot of what we've done in officiating. As technology gets better the bar raises and so you have the home experience is so much better than it was 20 years ago sure high definition and multiple angles and all the analysis that they're getting and so the scrutiny on officiating is that much more we have to keep up with that so certainly with the advent of instant replay we're trying to stay on the cutting edge of technology and we're trying to get the calls right and we're going to use technology to do that and thats why our replay system has advanced to where it is where we're using high def technology we're using multiple angles sure so we're trying to have the fan at home see the same thing that the officials are seeing under the hood so that we can both come to the same concluding and hopefully thats the right conclusion. And if there ultimately is some call that tends to be controversial and is picked up by the news media um how do you communicate what's gone on behind the scenes to the media and to the public. Sure well the first thing and we've really taken a stance on being transparent is if there's a mistake that's made we wan tot step up and be accountable for that but we also want to educate in term of well heres the rule here's what the official is looking at here's what his perspective is and then explain if it is a mistake here's why. Here's why the error occurred here's what should have happened. So we analyze everything and then the big thing is coming out and saying we did make a mistake here's why and try to educate people as to the entire process because its very easy to sit after the fact and analyze the different angles and say well that was an incorrect call but in the moment the official he has one look at it full speed it happens very quickly and he has to make a decisions so sometimes mistakes happen and we want to be accountable when they do. What are some of the major misconceptions that the general public has about instant replay? I think the biggest one is that the referee has different angles than what everybody's seeing at home ok and it was really important when we put the system in to say we don't want to make decisions based on angles that everybody at home doesn't see. And so we're looking at the same information so that we don't have a situation where we make a decision and everyone at home is wondering why. We took it a step further last year where we actually show the under the hood feed the angles that the referee's looking at we show that in the stadium during the review so that fans in the stadium can actually see why the decision is made so that's the biggest misconception that we have secret angles or cameras hidden somewhere, its all the network cameras and its all the stuff that's going out over the air to the people at home. Several coaches went on the field during the season last years which I understand is a violation of the rules. How do you sanction those coaches, do you sanction the coaches. Yeah well we do we work with the coaches every week. Our crews work with the teams to say the sidelines the white area that's for the game officials and the coaches need to stay out of that every team has what's called a get back coach and that get back coach is a coach that's responsible that I'm going to go to the get back coach and say hey coach you have to get everybody back and he's responsible for then communicating that to the team and the coaches so when they do if something happens where a coach or a player gets on to the field and interferes with the play there's a penalty that can be assessed which is called a palpably unfair act there can be potential discipline in terms of fines to the coach or the team so thats something we address on a case by case basis when it happens which is very rare but it has happened. For a whole month during the season we see some of the biggest baddest dudes out there dressed in pink. How did that come about? Well I think it's an initiative, the NFLhas several initiatives the NFL has several initiatives the breast cancer awareness, salute to service and so I think it's just a natural fit it's such a great cause and its so visible with the pink its so visible we had our officials decked out in pink we had pink whistles pink flags last year so there are a lot of initiatives like that great causes that the NFL takes a part in and that's one of them. And it's real important the work you do you support a lot of causes absolutely and as a member of the public we applaud the NFL for your high morals and for doing things like that it's a wonderful thing. This past January in Forbes magazine a contributor wrote an article entitled 28 years of getting it wrong. Is the NFL really getting it mostly right and some of them getting it wrong? Whenever you notice officiating its when there's a mistake and thats why, that's why the profile is so much higher now and so when there's a good call people really don't talk about it and when you look at our overall percentage of accuracy it's been the last couple of years about 98% . If you're 98% good at something that you do thats pretty good. That's pretty darn good. But when we do make a mistake people will harp on it so I think we are getting it right. I think there's room for improvement and consistency is an area that we're going to continue to work on but I would disagree with that. One of the things the article talks about was the western championship game and again I think it's fans don't really understand which plays are and which plays are not reviewable. So I wonder if in fact you might take a few minutes and tell us just briefly what plays can't be reviewed like in that particular case you had a player at the goal line and there was a controversy over that but that wasn't reviewable. It wasn't reviewable that was the uh a fumble was ruled on the field and who recovered that fumble was not a reviewable play was not a reviewable play at that time that rule has since proposed to be changed to make it reviewable play. Oh wow. In the institution of replay the competition committee felt that we wanted to deal in fact not not a subjective call so did the ball hit the ground did the foot touch the sideline was the knee down. Not whether is that enough restriction for holding so what's reviewable is things that involve possession of the football the boundary lines the side lines the goal line the end line but when you are talking about pure subjective calls something like holding, pass interference those are not reviewable. some fans prefer that an official make the call because they like the thrill of error. Is that something you folks considered? I think that's something that we have seen. That's feedback that we have because in the original replay system it was the official up in the booth that was making the decision and you really didn't know who that person was so when we put replay back in it was important to say no here's the referee he's in charge of the crew he's going to make this decision so it gives it a credibility factor to the entire process. That is important and we have heard that. Have you considered going to a more centralized call similar to the NHL? We're looking at that. We're looking at the feasibility of that we feel that that has some merit in terms of consistency in standardizing the decision making process so thats in the working mode right now we're not sure if we're going to head that direction but its something we're considering What is the most rewarding part of your job personally? I think personally it doesn't happen very often when you do get a call and say hey the crew worked a really good game and we're in officiating we're responsible for upholding the integrity of the game making sure the game is played fairly the outcome is decided fairly and that the players are safe that the game is safe for the players and so that's rewarding when you have a little part of that you can say hey I've got a little part of making sure the game is played fairly and played safely. That's the most rewarding part for me. I wonder if you might comment on the recent settlement between the league and the players association and how head injuries are going to be dealt with going forward and how does that impact officiating? Well in officiating we really didn't have anything to do with the settlement but our job in officiating and this goes back to as long as there've been game officials we're the first responders on the field and it's really important and we've really harped with our game officials to understand that if we see a player under stress, a player that could be potentially injured whether it's a potential head injury or any body part that we need to stop the game and get that player attention so that's been the direction that's been the directive to our game officials and we're very we feel very strongly about that that hey regardless of the situation in the game if there's a player that has been injured or potentially injured we need to stop the game and get that player get that player attended to so that's where we come in in that process. How are you going to deal with racial slurs on the field going forward? Well I think we have, our current rule covers any language thats abusive threatening or insulting so that would include anything of a racial nature a sexual orientation nature ok so our current rules cover that and when it's in an aggressive insulting manner that's when officials are empowered to throw flags for taunting and unsportsmanlike so there's really no change it's going to be a point of emphasis and we're going to were going to when it is used in that manner it will result in a flag. What changes do you forecast for the next ten years in the NFL as it pertains to officiating? I think we're going to look at using technology to to enhance performance next year we're going to go to an official to official communication system where all the officials on a crew can communicate wirelessly in a closed network so now oh if I'm thirty yards away I don't have to use hand signals or run over to you we can communicate and I think that will really help us so I think we're going to use technology whether its on a field whether it's in replay or in this room in our evaluation process I think that's something thats going to change as we look to make enhancements. Massachusetts School of Law, legal education that is practical, accessible, affordable and enjoyable. Offering flexible day and evening classes, full or part time studies where candidates are assessed not on the LSAT but on their academic and other accomplishments. Providing more professional skills training than any other law school in New England. Massachusetts School of Law. Visit us at Training students to become successful lawyers and advocates, not just legal scholars. Do you know who the first African american referee in the NFL was? You will. He was and NFL official for 23 years. I was raised in Washington DC and part of the physical ed curriculum in 8th grade was basketball officiating. So I started there and I was the manager of the basketball team, manager being the person who normally handles all of the equipment and also i was responsible for the official score but at the same time I was being taught how to officiate basketball and I kind of handled all the scrimmages for the basketball team. I went from junior high to high school and there I was also the manager for the basketball team and I again worked all the scrimmages for the basketball team so when I graduated from high school I went into the air force and I went to join the local group in shreveport louisiana as a basketball official and at that time they were short football officials so guy talked me into doing it and I went from there, I started I worked my first high school football game at age 18 which is not normal that's not normal and then my first college game I worked when I was 22 again not normal and from there I just kind of went from there. Got lucky. Incredible story. Well I think it was more than luck. My next question is you spent 23 years as an official in the NFL and you were the first black referee as I understand it. Tell us about how that transition happened. Well when I first came into the league each year at our clinic in Dallas they always asked if you had an opportunity to change positions, what position would you like to change to. And I always filled out the card referee. Number one to me it's the easiest position on the field you just babysit a quarterback and then in 1980 I believe it was 1988 Art Magnali who was the supervisor at that time called me and asked me if I was ready to make the move and I jumped at it yes indeed. So we went from there. Who were some of your early mentors and share with any conversation or guidance they provided you along the way. When I came back to DC after leaving the air force I guy named Tom Beard took me under his wing and kind of guided me, made sure I stayed on the straight and narrow as far as college college officiating is concerned. When i came in was accepted into the league in 1981 I was put on Jim Tunney's crew for the first four years and that's one of the best things that could have happened to me because at that time he was the premiere referee in the league. He was ex-superintendant of schools in Los Angeles he's a motivational speaker so I kind of picked up a lot of things from him and my temperament and his temperament kind of meshed and then after the four years with Jim I was with Dick Jorgensen again his temperament was similar to Jim's, he was a bank president so you know straight and narrow there too. We hope. Oh yeah. No shenanigans there. And those two just kind of set the way I like to run a crew. The weren't overbearing everybody knew they were in charge without without showing it. Without being overbearing? Yes, Yes. That's a nice way of putting it yes. How diverse is officiating today? Well when I first came to the league I think we had uh nine black officials and I took a look at the roster this morning we've got 33. Wow black officials now oh that's great news You are recognized as a very important historical figure how do you wish to be remembered in history? I'd like to be remembered by my cohorts as someone they'd want to walk on the field with on sunday afternoon. Now history I can't deal with that uh somebody had to be first. And it was wonderful that it was you because you are a terrific role model. Thank you. What are the risks of injure to officials. The biggest one is getting run over, getting too close to a payer. Not recognizing when it's time to back away. We get a lot of guys who get their knees wiped out. The other things are just minor, tears, stretches, those kind of nagging injuries but the biggest thing is the knees and the legs. Getting too close to the play getting rolled up on on the sidelines trying to back out and you back out into your chain crew and they now they're in your way. Now you got hurt officiating is that correct or was it off the field? No it was a crazy situation we were up in what was in New England, Buffalo I'm just a long pass downfield and I'm just jogging down the field and I felt something, didn't know what it was went down now we're coming back the other way i again just trotting up the field and snapped my del what is it deltoid ligament in my ankle so and they had to do reconstruction surgery oh my did you have to get carried off the field well I was able to walk off the field I sat on the sideline for a while and Scott green and he came over and said hey man I need your white hat. Different question what position do you occupy now and are you in a position and are you in a position where you can still effectuate positive change within the NFL. We have four regional supervisors in the NFL office and I'm the north east regional supervisor. I'm responsible for the Redskins the Ravens, Philadelphia the Jets Giants and Buffalo. Not our beloved Patriots? Oh I'm sorry yes New England I forgot New England Don't forget us. Explain the milestones that have occurred within the NFL with respect to race relations. Milestones the well the one that I remember right off hand was 1965 when Burl Toler became the first black official in the league. Then we had and I was lucky to be a part of this so 1988 washington denver doug williams the first black in the Super Bowl I was hoping you would tell that story. What is it like to officiate in the Super Bowl. Once you realize you've gotten the assignment it kind of takes on the shape of any other game - at least it did for me. You've got to stay focused that's the same one thing. How does one stay focused when you have players in your face you might have management of coaches in your face questioning calls and your goal has to be to stay cool and focused how do you do that? Well that's why you don't just come straight from high school to the NFL it takes a awhile to get to that point. It's just training its just like any other job you get used to it. You're starting out with Pop Warner where the only people there bothering you are the parents and then you go to high school and now you have the players and the coaches involved and then college it becomes more coaches than anyone else. You get used to it, it's just like being a policeman. Number one you know you're not going to please everyone on every call can I say this you're going to piss somebody 50% of the time you're going to piss somebody off. And that's just the way it is. That goes with the territory. The NFL is a major successful business. In my opinion it's one with a moral compass discuss who that either helps the game or hinders the game. One thing that we strive is to have integrity among the officials by them being graded every play of every game we want to keep any appearance of any impropriety out of it. You can tell when a person is, well, since I've never had this problem as far as 34 years I've been in the league I don't remember having it when somebody is cheating and if you are graded every play somebody is looking over your shoulder on every play it's kind of hard to do that because tendencies will start to come out. Who grades and who review the officials? We have the four regional supervisors and we have four associate supervisors who grade every game every play. Are their penalties for missed calls or bad performance? Well that's when you don't go to the playoffs. right ok that's the penalty that's the end result and poor calls over an extend period of time will get you released. Officials are on year to year contracts. What advice do you have for aspiring young children who dream of being an official in the NFL? Even at the young age, nobody ever thinks about being an official so when I go out and talk to high school kids, younger kids, I tell them there is an opportunity to stay close to the game because even players I just came up from a camp we're having down in Baltimore we've got 25 ex-players there we're exposing them to officiating this weekend they all of them, each to a man said they never thought about officiating when they were players all they wanted to do was curse at us. And this weekend we are exposing them to officiating to see whether or not this is something they want to do and if it is something they want to do we're going to help them in their local areas get attached to their local high school groups and hopefully they can go from there. But normally kids don't think about officiating they want to be players. Sure they do. Except their parents don't want them to play football because they're worried about them Well it's good when parents are there when we're talking to them because we talk to the parents and tell them there's a way to stay close the football game without being a player and getting hurt. In 1988 Grier officiated in super bowl twenty two which was his last game as a field judge. It was the same game in which super bowl MVP Doug Williams became the first African American quarterback to lead his team to victory in the Super Bowl. Well that's it from here. Now let the games begin. Thanks to the NFL, the Patriots and everyone for participating. Thank you for joining us. We hope you learned a few things. Never stop learning.


Top 20 career
Name Yards Start End
Joe Theismann 25,206 1974 1985
Sonny Jurgensen 22,585 1964 1974
Sammy Baugh 21,886 1937 1952
Mark Rypien 15,928 1988 1993
Billy Kilmer 12,352 1971 1978
Kirk Cousins 12,113 2012 2018
Gus Frerotte 9,769 1994 1998
Norm Snead 8,306 1961 1963
Robert Griffin III 8,097 2012 2014
Eddie LeBaron 8,068 1952 1959
Jay Schroeder 7,445 1985 1987
Jason Campbell 7,242 2006 2008
Brad Johnson 6,510 1999 2000
Mark Brunell 6,033 2004 2006
Patrick Ramsey 5,649 2002 2005
Doug Williams 4,350 1986 1989
Trent Green 3,441 1997 1998
Frank Filchock 3,266 1938 1945
Ralph Guglielmi 2,864 1955 1960
Harry Gilmer 2,850 1948 1954
Top 20 single-season
Name Yards Year
Kirk Cousins 4,917 2016
Kirk Cousins 4,166 2015
Jay Schroeder 4,109 1986
Brad Johnson 4,005 1999
Mark Rypien 3,768 1989
Sonny Jurgensen 3,747 1967
Joe Theismann 3,714 1983
Jason Campbell 3,618 2009
Joe Theismann 3,568 1981
Mark Rypien 3,564 1991
Gus Frerotte 3,453 1996
Trent Green 3,441 1998
Joe Theismann 3,391 1984
Mark Rypien 3,282 1992
Jason Campbell 3,245 2008
Sonny Jurgensen 3,209 1966
Robert Griffin III 3,203 2013
Robert Griffin III 3,200 2012
Sonny Jurgensen 3,102 1969
Mark Brunell 3,050 2005
Top 4 single-game
Name Yards Year Opponent
Brad Johnson 471 1999 San Francisco 49ers
Kirk Cousins 458 2016 Cincinnati Bengals
Kirk Cousins 449 2016 Dallas Cowboys
Sammy Baugh 446 1948 Boston Yanks


Top 20 career
Name Completions Start End
Joe Theismann 2,044 1974 1985
Sonny Jurgensen 1,831 1964 1974
Sammy Baugh 1,693 1937 1952
Mark Rypien 1,244 1988 1993
Kirk Cousins 1,025 2012 present
Billy Kilmer 953 1971 1978
Gus Frerotte 744 1994 1998
Jason Campbell 675 2006 2008
Robert Griffin III 679 2012 2014
Brad Johnson 544 1999 2000
Mark Brunell 542 2004 2006
Eddie LeBaron 539 1952 1959
Norm Snead 531 1961 1963
Jay Schroeder 517 1985 1987
Patrick Ramsey 480 2002 2005
Doug Williams 345 1986 1989
Trent Green 278 1997 1998
Frank Filchock 224 1938 1945
Ralph Guglielmi 215 1955 1960
Tony Banks 198 2001 2001
Top 20 single-season
Name Completions Year
Kirk Cousins 406 2016
Kirk Cousins 379 2015
Brad Johnson 316 1999
Jason Campbell 315 2008
Joe Theismann 293 1981
Sonny Jurgensen 288 1967
Joe Theismann 283 1984
Mark Rypien 280 1989
Trent Green 278 1998
Joe Theismann 276 1983
Jay Schroeder 276 1986
Sonny Jurgensen 274 1969
Robert Griffin III 274 2013
Gus Frerotte 270 1996
Mark Rypien 269 1992
Joe Theismann 262 1980
Mark Brunell 262 2005
Robert Griffin III 258 2012
Sonny Jurgensen 254 1966
Jason Campbell 250 2007
Top single-game
Name Completions Year Opponent

Kirk Cousins 41 2016 Dallas Cowboys
Kirk Cousins 38 2016 Cincinnati Bengals


Top 20 career
Name TDs Start End
Sammy Baugh 187 1937 1952
Sonny Jurgensen 179 1964 1974
Joe Theismann 160 1974 1985
Billy Kilmer 103 1971 1978
Mark Rypien 101 1988 1993
Kirk Cousins 99 2012 2017
Eddie LeBaron 59 1952 1959
Gus Frerotte 48 1994 1998
Norm Snead 46 1961 1963
Robert Griffin III 40 2012 2015
Jay Schroeder 39 1985 1987
Mark Brunell 38 2004 2006
Brad Johnson 35 1999 2000
Jason Campbell 35 2006 2008
Patrick Ramsey 34 2002 2005
Frank Filchock 32 1938 1945
Doug Williams 27 1986 1989
Trent Green 23 1997 1998
Harry Gilmer 17 1948 1954
Ralph Guglielmi 17 1955 1960
Top 20 single-season (including ties)
Name TDs Year
Sonny Jurgensen 31 1967
Kirk Cousins 29 2015
Joe Theismann 29 1983
Mark Rypien 28 1991
Sonny Jurgensen 28 1966
Kirk Cousins 27 2017
Sammy Baugh 25 1947
Kirk Cousins 25 2016
Sonny Jurgensen 24 1964
Joe Theismann 24 1984
Brad Johnson 24 1999
Sammy Baugh 23 1943
Sonny Jurgensen 23 1970
Billy Kilmer 23 1975
Mark Brunell 23 2005
Trent Green 23 1998
Sammy Baugh 22 1948
Norm Snead 22 1962
Sonny Jurgensen 22 1969
Mark Rypien 22 1989
Jay Schroeder 22 1986
Top 3 single-game
Name TDs Year Opponent
Sammy Baugh 6 1943 Brooklyn Dodgers
Sammy Baugh 6 1947 Chicago Cardinals
Mark Rypien 6 1991 Atlanta Falcons
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