Former NFL V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira, who now covers NFL rules and the enforcement of them for FOX, recently explained that he believes the league will tweak as necessary the rule regarding the placement of the umpire in the offensive backfield.
Pereira points out that referees and umpires will meet in Dallas on Friday, September 10, a day after the regular-season opener between the Vikings and Saints. At that time, it’s possible changes will be made to the disputed rule. (Of course, that won’t do much to help the Saints, if they plan to employ their quick-snap attack on offense against Minnesota.)
The former head of all officials expresses in his most recent item for FOXSports.com that he believes the kinks will be ironed out. And Pereira believes that the Colts have no right to complain that it hampers their attack, since Colts president Bill Polian was present for all Competition Committee meetings at which the change was discussed. (Indeed, Polian voted for the change.)
And while the question of “what next?” provides plenty of intrigue, we’re still trying to figure out the more fundamental issue: “How did this happen?”
A league source with knowledge of the situation tells us that the officials did not want the umpire to be moved. Per the source, the officials believed that, if any change was needed, the umpires should wear a helmet and other protection against injury, and stay where they were.
The source also said that, even before we suggested that the move came from lawyers concerned about possible liability, league lawyers were spreading the word internally that they didn’t insist on the move.
Truth be told, the rule as currently constructed highlights the league’s potential responsibility if/when an umpire is injured, maimed, or worse when positioned in the scrum behind the defensive side of the line of scrimmage. If it’s too dangerous for the umpire to be in the box during the first 28 minutes of each half, the new rule shouldn’t evaporate for the last two.
Put simply, it’s either too dangerous to be in there, or it isn’t. In every other workplace, operational considerations don’t supersede bright-line safety rules. And if they do, the person injured, maimed, or worse has a much stronger case than he would have had if there was no bright-line safety rule in the first place.
Pereira writes that Commissioner Roger Goodell has the power to scuttle the rule. Frankly, we think he should. As currently constructed, it’s both a bad operational procedure and a bright-line safety rule with a glaring exception that creates a known hazard for 6.67 percent of the total clock time of each game.