On any given Sunday, Chiefs fans will find former linebacker Shawn Barber standing on the sidelines at Arrowhead Stadium. Barber is not trying to relive his glory days on the gridiron, but he does have a paid job to perform.
At each home game, Barber is the uniform inspector for the Chiefs hired by the NFL to report violations of the league’s guidelines for apparel and equipment. Ricky Siglar, Barber’s colleague and a former Chiefs tackle, handles inspections for the visiting teams that come to Arrowhead.
The two former Chiefs are among a cadre of retired players who handle these duties for the 32 NFL teams. They have specific checklists of things to look for before, during and even after games as outlined by the league.
“You want the team to look like a team and be recognizable,” Barber said about policing the uniforms the players wear.
While the two watch the players like hawks for any violations, Barber said their job is simply to make sure the players are aware of rule violations, give them a chance to correct them and report any infractions if they don’t.
“I have no clue which guys get fined and which do not. … We do our part and turn it in,” he said. “Fines are issued by the NFL covered under the collective bargaining agreement. We turn them all in, and we let the higher-ups decide whether to fine. It makes it easier on us.”
Uniform violations cost $1,250 and go up, especially if they are repeat offenses, he said.
In the late 1990s, the NFL began using former players as a uniform inspectors, with one per team. According to the NFL’s website, there were several reasons for instituting guidelines and inspectors to report violations: “Compliance with the uniform rules helps the league to protect players from injury, maintain competitive balance, create a professional appearance and protect the league’s business partnerships.”
Siglar signed on immediately after he retired from the game.
“The Chiefs were at training camp, and I got a call from Mike White who was on Dick’s (Vermeil) coaching staff, and he left me a message asking did I want to do something that would make me rich and famous,” Siglar said with a laugh.
Until this season, there was one inspector for each game, provided by the home team but under the auspices of the NFL. Following meetings last year, the NFL decided to have two inspectors per game — one assigned to each team. Barber was asked whether he was interested in the job and said yes.
“I am already at the games as a (Chiefs) ambassador … so basically I only go 30 minutes earlier. … For me it’s a win-win,” Barber said.
To ease the transition, Siglar took the visiting teams, and Barber inspects the Chiefs.
“I have a rapport and relationship with most of them since they have been here through my tenure,” Siglar said.
Training is provided, in large part, through instructional PowerPoint presentations.
“As former players they figured we would have some knowledge and consideration of what can happen during the game,” Barber added.
Barber and Siglar arrive at games about two hours before kickoff and check the locker rooms first before the teams go out for warmups.
“I stand right beside the coolers,” Barber said. “There is a 90-minute rule before and after that they are under NFL surveillance exposed to all kinds of fines and violations of uniform policy. They cannot wear competitive brands — Adidas, Reebok, Nike — only NFL-licensed brands.”
Barber and Siglar watch for such things as whether undershirts and jerseys are untucked, how much white sock shows on players’ legs and whether only NFL licensed apparel is worn. The league goes with Nike uniforms.
“They have to have the right brand of shoes on, not a brand that isn’t approved,” Barber said. “Nike is the approved shoe. It has to be a white or all black shoe or accent colors of team.”
There are times when the players may wear an item whose color is different, like pink socks during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“We’ll over look some of the ‘special’ uniform stuff like that,” Barber said.
The duo observes before the game and goes to the press room to get adjustments to the roster, including any changes in number.
“We don’t want to be fining the wrong guy for the wrong stuff,” Barber said. “We even get a list of who is approved to wear shaded visors. On the Chiefs, that’s only Tamba (Hali). During the first and second halves, we provide periodic warnings to players so they can correct the infractions.”
Barber and Siglar complete a standardized form for each time period. The form includes the player’s number and seven categories to check: jersey, socks, pants, chin straps, thigh pad, knee pad and miscellaneous. There is also a box to check off if the violation has been corrected. Once completed, the form is submitted directly to the NFL.
Pregame violations go to the equipment manager. For the Chiefs that’s Allan Wright.
“Alan Wright does a phenomenal job of reviewing with the guys,” Barber said. “Some fix things, and some don’t, but that’s their choice.
“They are really trying to monitor the excessive guys,” Siglar said.
After the game, Barber and Siglar transfer their report to the NFL’s online system. They can also submit questions about items not expressly covered in the instructions.
“It allows me to add pictures to it so I can take pictures during the game on my phone,” Barber said. “I have some great game-day photos. … I probably have the best seat in the building.”
So how do the Chiefs measure up in the violations department?
“The entire offensive line and QBs are always perfect,” Barber said. “The D-line and linebackers always come out with jerseys rolled up and socks down, but they always come out corrected for game time.”
Barber said the two biggest groups with violations are the secondary and receiving corps. Ninety percent of the violations have to do with socks and how much white must be showing.
Barber said he hasn’t run into any issues being the clothing “cop.”
“I think if you asked the players if they would rather I do it or someone off the street, I think that they would prefer that I do it,” Barber said. “I understand what they are doing and know most of them are going to correct for the game.”
Siglar, the veteran of the duo, is known for being a tough guy when it comes to being a uniform inspector.
“I have been complained about by most teams because I am a real stickler,” Siglar said. “The person who trained me was my boss.”
In his job, Siglar gets frustrated at times.
“There is a level of frustration because there is a lack of cooperation sometimes,” he said. “They are grown men, and they know the expectations.”
Despite the challenges, both former players like their role as uniform inspectors.
“What I like the most, it keeps me around the game,” Siglar said. “I like to be down there amongst the guys.”