Up to 24 of­fi­cials to go full time

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - Staff and wire re­ports — Sam Farmer

Af­ter years of de­lib­er­a­tion and de­bates, the NFL is go­ing with at least some full-time game of­fi­cials.

About one-fifth of the 124 of­fi­cials will be made full-time em­ploy­ees this sea­son, the NFL and NFL Ref­er­ees Assn. an­nounced Wed­nes­day, with plans to give up to 24 of them that sta­tus.

The of­fi­cials will be able to ap­ply to be­come full-time em­ploy­ees.

“We be­lieve this is a great de­vel­op­ment for NFL of­fi­ci­at­ing over­all and ul­ti­mately the qual­ity of our game,” said Troy Vincent, the league’s ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of foot­ball op­er­a­tions, in a state­ment.

“We share a com­mon goal, which is to make our game as great as it can pos­si­bly be, and look for­ward to work­ing to­gether on this new ef­fort.”

An­other sig­nif­i­cant change this sea­son will be that des­ig­nated mem­bers of the NFL’s of­fi­ci­at­ing depart­ment will be au­tho­rized to make the fi­nal de­ci­sion on re­play re­views from league head­quar­ters in New York.

Free­man on board

The At­lanta Fal­cons ad­dressed their big­gest is­sue com­ing into train­ing camp. Devonta Free­man has a new con­tract.

The de­fend­ing NFC cham­pi­ons agreed to terms on a five-year, $41.25-mil­lion ex­ten­sion with Free­man, mak­ing him the high­est-paid run­ning back in the league in terms of the over­all pack­age.

It in­cludes a $15-mil­lion sign­ing bonus and $22-mil­lion in guar­an­teed money.

LeSean McCoy of the Buf­falo Bills had been the high­est-paid run­ning back with a five-year, $40-mil­lion deal signed in 2015.

Bryant up­date

Pitts­burgh Steel­ers wide re­ceiver Mar­tavis Bryant is a step closer to re­turn­ing to the league full time.

Gen­eral man­ager Kevin Col­bert said that Bryant has been cleared to par­tic­i­pate in all pre­sea­son ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing prac­tices and games.

He sat out the 2016 sea­son while serv­ing a sus­pen­sion for vi­o­lat­ing the league’s sub­stance abuse pol­icy

Wat­son steals show

De­shaun Wat­son shined in his NFL pre­sea­son de­but, com­plet­ing 15 of 25 passes for 179 yards and run­ning for a touch­down in the Hous­ton Tex­ans’ 27-17 loss to the host Carolina Pan­thers.

Wat­son led Clem­son to the na­tional cham­pi­onship in Jan­uary.

Etc.

Vince Wil­fork, a five-time Pro Bowl se­lec­tion and twotime Su­per Bowl cham­pion in New Eng­land, re­turned to Gil­lette Sta­dium for a cer­e­mony to re­tire as a Pa­triot . ... Do­mes­tic vi­o­lence charges against for­mer San Fran­cisco 49ers cor­ner­back Tra­maine Brock were dropped be­cause of in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence, pros­e­cu­tors said.

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