Behind The ScenesNFL

ESPN’s “Father Time” coordinates MNF’s timeouts in orange sleeves

Candlestick Park: Dick Shafter (orange gloves) during a regular season Monday Night Football game (Scott Clarke / ESPN Images)
Candlestick Park: Dick Shafter (orange gloves) during a regular season Monday Night Football game (Scott Clarke / ESPN Images)

You may have noticed Dick Shafter on the field during ESPN’s Monday Night Football games.

He’s not a referee, but he confers with officials between plays.

He’s not a coach or coordinator, but he wears a headset.

He doesn’t play for the Bears, Broncos, Browns or Bengals, but he wears (bright) orange at every game.

Shafter is MNF’s timeout producer.

Also known as “orange sleeves” (for the colorful elbow-length mittens the timeout producer wears), Shafter ensures fans at home don’t miss a second of game action by working with the officiating crew and coordinating with ESPN’s production team in the truck.

Shafter, who has worked on ESPN’s NFL telecasts for 11 seasons, discusses his unique role with Front Row:

Explain your job on MNF?
I coordinate with the guys in the trucks when they want to take a break and I communicate that to the officials on the field so we can try and work as seamlessly as possible. We always want more time; they always want less, and I’m the guy in the middle. I’m Father Time!

What do the hand signals mean?
Crossing your arms (across your chest) indicates we want to take a commercial following the current play. Then, once we’re into the commercial, we put one arm behind our back so the radio folks up in the booth can see that we’re in commercial as well, because they go off of our timing. So do all of the local people. When we go to break, everybody goes to break. (We take five media timeouts per quarter and can take up to eight, depending on circumstances and that sort of thing.)

How was your experience working with MNF’s Rules Consultant Gerry Austin when he was a NFL official?
I worked with Gerry back when. Gerry’s been around for a long time. There’s no better person in the NFL or outside of it that knows the rules and knows how to communicate things as well as Gerry does. He’s Conference USA’s head guy. They love him, we love him. He was always one of the classy guys.

What is it like to be part of MNF?
It’s like a big family. I look forward to coming to work to see the people I work with as much as I do the games. It’s an exciting position. I have a really unfettered view of the game. As a football fan, there’s no better job in the world. But the people I work with by far are the reason I keep coming back year in and year out.

Tell us about the gloves themselves. Are there fall and winter versions? How many pairs do you own?
There are not winter and fall versions of the gloves. I wish there was! Hot in the summer, cold in the winter and they don’t fit over gloves. I have five different pairs. I carry three with me and leave two pairs in the trucks so I’m never without a pair. They’re my uniform.

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