I’ve noticed a referee step right into the path of a linebacker and take the tackle intended to stop a running back from scoring a touch down. The linebacker did his best to hold back when he realized at the last second the wrong person was wrapped in his arms. The referee caused a hesitation without which the linebacker could have stopped the score. I’m not really a fan of either Arkansas or Alabama teams. The Florida State game should start immediately after this.
Most referees probably are former players and know how to take a tackle. Only one case of a referee injury comes to mind, but it was a few years ago. Without lots of injuries to field refs, I doubt making referees wear pads would ever become institutionalized.