NFL may employ full-time refs in 2012

BALTIMORE -- Aiming to ensure NFL rules are enforced the same way from game to game, the league will consider making about 10 officials full-time employees next season.

As of now, all game officials are part-time employees.

Responding to a question about consistency in officiating while speaking to a group of about 75 fans before Sunday's playoff game between the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the proposal would bring a group of officials to the league offices in New York to help review game films and evaluate the calls.

They then would be spread out among the crews at games.

"Consistency is exactly what every club wants, and I think every fan wants. You want consistency in the way rules are applied," Goodell said. "We are contemplating this offseason taking some of those officials from the field who are now part time -- they have other jobs -- and making a certain number of them, let's say 10, full time."

Goodell also told the fans the rules committee will examine whether teams should be allowed to hire assistant coaches who left other teams during the same season, as happened with New England and Josh McDaniels. He returned to the Patriots in time for the playoffs after spending the regular season with the St. Louis Rams.

"We've talked to several club executives. I'm not getting a lot of reaction from the other clubs that this is unfair. They don't seem to think it's a big issue," Goodell said. "But it's something we'll talk about."

Among other topics Goodell addressed with fans, and later while speaking to reporters:

• He hopes the league and the players' union will be able to settle their differences on testing for human growth hormone before next season, but he wouldn't say he's confident that'll happen.

"There's certainly enough time. We had a meeting just on Friday between the two parties to try to address those issues," Goodell said. "We understand the issues they've raised. We've answered those questions. ... All of the scientists agree that this test is valid. So we think we have a valid test. It's been proven on a global basis. We hope to get it implemented as quickly as possible."

The new labor contract that ended the NFL lockout in August included a provision for HGH testing as soon as this season -- but only once the NFLPA approved the process. That hasn't happened, in part because the NFLPA says it needs more information about the test itself.

Asked by a reporter whether he's confident of getting a test in place for 2012, Goodell paused, then replied: "I'll tell you: Sure going to work as hard as we can to get it done, because I think it's important, not just for the game, but also for the players."

• He called the latest tweaks to concussion protocols -- including putting certified athletic trainers in booths at games to keep an eye out for possible head injuries, and adding video feeds on sidelines -- "significant improvements" and "two very positive steps."

• The new kickoff rules "achieved our objective" by reducing injuries, Goodell said.