All 17 NFL referees return for 2016 season

NEW YORK (AP) — All 17 NFL referees are returning for the 2016 season, including Walt Coleman, who will enter his 28th year in the league.

Three new officials were hired among the 124 the league will employ: side judge Alan Eck, who was in the Big 12; umpire Ramon George, who was in Conference USA; and head linesman Jerod Phillips, who also was in the Big 12.

The NFL announced its roster of officials Thursday.

Five officials will not be assigned to crews and will be “swing” officials, working with different crews throughout the season. The league also will do more rotating of officials among crews in hopes of getting more consistency.

Two former players will work games. Steve Freeman, who played 13 NFL seasons as a defensive back, is a field judge. Phil McKinnely, an offensive lineman for seven seasons, is a head linesman.

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There will be three father-son combinations. Coleman’s son, Walt IV, is a side judge. Referee Ed Hochuli’s son, Shawn, is a back judge. Freeman’s son, Brad, is a field judge.

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Line Sarah Thomas remains the only woman official.

For the 2015 season, the NFL employed 122 officials. One of them, head linesman George Hayward, has retired.

AP NFL website: www.Pro32.Ap.Org and www.Twitter.Com/AP_NFL.

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