Have a question about the NFL? Ask Times NFL writer Sam Farmer, and he will answer as many as he can online and in the Sunday editions of the newspaper throughout the season. Email questions to: sam.farmer
Refs and their yellow flags: Are they provided by the home team? Do they carry their own? Do they replace them each year or when they wear out? Do guys go through a whole career with one?
Farmer: You’re onto something, Jaime. I called former NFL referee Mike Carey, and he said that officials use the same flag week after week, and it used to be that some guys would use the same one for their entire career. “Most officials become attached to their flag,” Carey said. “Most guys I know, they have their flag forever. I used the same flag I had in college.”
That changed after the unfortunate incident involving the late Orlando “Zeus” Brown in 1999. The Cleveland tackle was accidentally hit in the eye with the heavy end of a thrown flag during a game against Jacksonville. He had to sit out the 2000 season waiting for his eye to heal. After that, the NFL mandated officials use league-issued flags that had a somewhat heavy but soft material that allowed them to be thrown, but not very far.
Before that, it was basically anything goes.
“Officials would put whatever kind of weight they wanted in the flag to make it sail,” Carey said. “Most people used sand or buckshot or a golf ball or something like that.”
The ones with golf balls had a tendency to skitter across the field.
Carey said every official brings a backup flag to games but keeps it packed away in the locker room just in case. You might think that the older flags would be a faded yellow, but Carey said his didn’t fade much. It just got a little dirty, so he’d throw it in the wash now and again.
“Hopefully,” he said, “you don’t have to pull it out and expose it to the sun too often.”
Can a team line up for a two-point conversion, then go old school and drop-kick it through the uprights?
Farmer: No, there’s no pulling a fast one and snapping the ball at the two-yard line and drop-kicking one through the uprights for one point. All kicks in those situations must start with a snap at the 15.