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EARNING $7,000 IS ALL IN A DAY'S WORK FOR NFL OFFICIALS

Question: Can you tell me what the salary range is for NFL officials? Are they paid per game or on an annual salary basis? How are they chosen? - Robert D. Suhina, North Tonawanda.

Answer: The NFL pays its officials anywhere between $2,134 a game for a first-year man to $7,334 for one with 20 or more years of experience, according to the National Association of Sports Officials. All crews get at least one week off in the 17-game season. So for those who work 16 games, the pay is about $34,200 for a first-year official and about $117,400 for the most senior officials.

Preseason and playoff games pay extra. Referees working the 2005 Super Bowl will make $25,000. Super Bowl officials must have at least five years of experience working in the NFL and are selected based on performance ratings.

Of course, virtually all NFL officials also get paid from their full-time jobs. Their ranks include lawyers, teachers, bankers, pilots and accountants, among many other professions.

By comparison, a rookie Major League Baseball official earns about $85,000 a year. The most experienced baseball officials earn about $340,000 a year.

Generally, officials are recruited from the college ranks.

Virtually all of them these days train in NFL Europe and Arena Football before they hit the NFL. The NFL runs the officiating departments for the Arena Football League and the arenafootball2 league.

Q: With the Baltimore Ravens' offense struggling, why doesn't Brian Billick turn to Kordell Stewart? He seems like the forgotten NFL quarterback. - Kevin Hodge, Tonawanda.

A: Stewart probably could do better than Kyle Boller has done the past year and a half. However, the Ravens need to find a quarterback who can win the Super Bowl. Stewart isn't the guy. In 2001, Stewart probably played as well as he's capable of playing. But he couldn't get Pittsburgh to the Super Bowl, even though he was supported by the No. 1-ranked running game and the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL. Stewart had 14 TDs and 11 interceptions that year. His three-interception, no-TD performance against New England cost the Steelers in the AFC title game. Boller has not yet showed the accuracy needed to be a championship-caliber QB, but the Ravens probably have to give him two or three years as a starter before making a definitive call on him. That's the problem with quarterbacks. They take a lot of development time.

The situation is somewhat similar in Cincinnati. Jon Kitna had a superb season last year. But he's highly unlikely to take the Bengals to the Super Bowl. They need to find out if Carson Palmer can do it.

Q: When was the last time the Bills had a 50-yard field goal? Seems like a long time. - Adrian Wallace, Washington, D.C.

A: Mike Hollis made three from 50-plus yards in 2002, the last a 54-yarder at the end of regulation in Minnesota. The Bills have 25 regular-season field goals of 50 or more yards in their history. Steve Christie made 13 of them, including the team-record 59-yarder in 1993. Pete Gogolak never hit from 50 for the Bills. Scott Norwood made two from 50 or more, both in 1991. For the record, Norwood was 12 of 32 from 47 yards and beyond for his Bills career, including 0 for 2 on grass.
Bills beat reporter Mark Gaughan answers your football questions every Friday. Send your e-mails to mgaughan@buffnews.com or mail to Question Mark, The Buffalo News Sports Department, One News Plaza, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240.

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