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No more changes to umpire placement rule, for now

Carl Johnson scored a huge promotion since the end of the 2009 season, jumping from line judge to the position of NFL V.P. of officiating.  At a meeting with NBC personnel on Saturday afternoon to discuss changes to the rules for the coming season, Johnson spoke extensively about the new placement of the umpire in the offensive backfield. 

Previously, the umpire at all times was positioned on the defensive side of the ball behind the line of scrimmage, putting him at risk of being struck and injured by offensive and defensive players.

Johnson said that the rule can still be tweaked, with no vote needed from the Competition Committee or ownership.  He also said that a 5.5-hour meeting of the officials in Dallas on Friday resulted in no further changes to the rule, and that the new approach worked “very well.”

He acknowledged that the real test will come when an offense shifts to hurry-up mode without substituting players.  Johnson explained that many of the umpires have lost weight and gotten into better shape, so that they can move quickly to their position after placing the ball at the line of scrimmage for the next play.

During the preseason, the Colts drew multiple illegal snap penalties for starting a play before the umpire was in place.  Johnson said that the experience was “beneficial” to the process; since then, the league has moved the umpire from 15 yards behind the ball to 12 yards, and the league has authorized the side judge and the line judge to signal to the quarterback when the ball is ready for play.

But while Johnson expressed optimism that the officials and teams will adapt to the new procedures and that additional changes will be made as needed, he explained that, no matter how well the new rule is implemented, the umpire will continue to return to his position on the defensive side of the ball with two minutes left in the half, with five minutes left in the game, and whenever the offense is inside the opponents’ five yard line.

And that’s the issue that continues to give us the most concern.  If safety concerns compel a change to the process, those safety concerns should supersede any and all game situations.  If the prior approach can be tolerated for seven of 60 minutes in each game, the process shouldn’t change at all.

We also think that the league needs to account for the reality that, on certain occasions with less than two minutes remaining in the half or five minutes remaining in the game, the offense won’t be trying to rush down the field — and thus the umpire can retreat to the position that the league regards as safer.  For example, the quarterback could indicate his intention to attempt to snap the ball quickly with fewer than two minutes left in the first half or fewer than five minutes left in the game, and the umpire would then stay on the defensive side of the ball.  Otherwise, he’d go to the safer place.

Maybe that’s the best outcome, regardless of the amount of time on the clock.  The umpire would stay on the defensive side of the ball when the quarterback makes the signal or gesture indicating an intent to use a quick-snap, no-huddle offense, and the umpire would head to his new default position when the quarterback doesn’t.

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20 Responses to “No more changes to umpire placement rule, for now”
  1. nfcbeast says: Sep 11, 2010 10:19 PM

    The fact that they changed the umpires positions is just stupid, its already caused more harm than good….ugh stupid zebras.

  2. shaggeez says: Sep 11, 2010 10:21 PM

    Maybe that’s the best outcome, regardless of the amount of time on the clock. The umpire would stay on the defensive side of the ball when the quarterback makes the signal or gesture indicating an intent to use a quick-snap, no-huddle offense, and the umpire would head to his new default position when the quarterback doesn’t.
    Doesn’t the use of that signal just make things more confusing? Also, depending on when the signal is given from qb to official, it could give the defense, who would watch for this signal too, the opportunity to make the substitutions that they want, which takes some of the advantage of running the no-huddle offense anyways.

  3. nfcbeast says: Sep 11, 2010 10:22 PM

    Florio, tommorow you should do an article about Miles Austin getting a new contract and compare him to Desean Jackson,,,,especially if D Jax has a great game, that will give you lots to fiddle with and stir crap up concerning D Jax. Be smart for once and write up a good article….its been pretty boring on here for a while

  4. Nosredna says: Sep 11, 2010 10:31 PM

    What you left out is that for the last 2 minutes of the first half, and the last 5 minutes of the second half, the official moves back to where he was before this new rule was implemented.
    They try to claim that this new rule was implemented because of danger to the official…… so now he gets to run for his life for 7 minutes instead of 60…..

  5. steelers rule says: Sep 11, 2010 10:48 PM

    Omce Peyton don’t get his play off and complains, it will be changed again!

  6. robert ethen says: Sep 11, 2010 11:01 PM

    In the Superdome the instructions to umpires remain as they were.
    Meander aimlessly and look the other way.

  7. Brick Tamland says: Sep 11, 2010 11:03 PM

    They’ll change it soon…just a few more complaints from Peyton and this will get rescinded. Nothing that makes Peyton’s job harder is going to last, until he retires.

  8. Unnamed Source says: Sep 11, 2010 11:35 PM

    How are the Colts expected to win game now? No fake crowd noise, no refs to set picks, no cheap 12 men on the field calls on the opposing defense. Looks like a 4-12 season in Indy

  9. Admiral Obvious says: Sep 12, 2010 12:12 AM

    So unless they’re more safe for the whole 60 mins, no change should be made? Even if it makes them safer for 50 mins or so?
    That’s retarded.

  10. packerjoeZ says: Sep 12, 2010 12:28 AM

    This one’s easy .. as with other rules, just ask Polian, Peyton and Dungy what it should be and go with that.
    Competition committee, you can disband now.

  11. Schatt Maub says: Sep 12, 2010 12:49 AM

    Steelers rule: that isn’t even English you’re speaking, man.
    But I agree with you.
    I think.

  12. HuckNZ says: Sep 12, 2010 12:53 AM

    Having the offense let the refs know when they need the umpire on the defensive side of the ball is a nice idea, but I don’t think it works.
    Remember, the offense often likes to use the umpire as a pick to help get receivers open. So they’d have an incentive to tell the umpire to stay on the defensive side of the ball on every play.
    You could work around this in a few different ways — limit the number of times the offense can give this signal, give them a shorter play clock when they give this signal, etc. But it gets messy, and in the end I think the simpler rule is better here.

  13. Jackson23 says: Sep 12, 2010 3:46 AM

    That’s a brilliant idea except that no NFL quarterback would ever signal for the officials to move to a less favorable position for the offense. Even if they plan to kneel down on the last play of the game they’d rather the officials be in the defensive backfield. The new rules make sense without tinkering.

  14. FireJerryJones says: Sep 12, 2010 6:04 AM

    Colts haven’t played yet

  15. FoF says: Sep 12, 2010 7:14 AM

    “No more changes to umpire placement rule, for now”…… until the next time the sissy Colts are “inconvenienced” from it. Then expect more school girl whining from Manning and Polin and the league reacting to it like a concerned mother.
    I’m so glad the Saints embarrassed them in the SB. The Colts lost all my respect last year when they laid down at the end of the regular season giving up on their quest of a perfect year.

  16. TheDPR says: Sep 12, 2010 7:32 AM

    Instead of all this worrying about where the guy is and tweaking that, why not simply let the QB snap the ball after it’s set, without penalty? It’s the zebra’s fault if he’s not in a position to see what’s going on yet, not the QB’s. Keep the new umpire positioning BUT remove the penalty.
    This isn’t rocket science.

  17. Fan says: Sep 12, 2010 9:15 AM

    When you watch a game ask one question at the end: “Did the ref’s or the players determine the outcome?”
    In the good old days its was 99% players.
    Now it’s 99% refs.

  18. FinFan68 says: Sep 12, 2010 10:12 AM

    This rule is dumb. Put it back they way it was. If needed put the ump in pads. There is no reason to impact the game because players need to wait for the ref to get into place. The premise that it is about safety is ridiculous because they are willingly modifying this rule and “endangering” the ump based on game time and the QB’s whim. Just admit the idea was not well thought out and revert back to the way it was. Change for the sake of change is counterproductive.

  19. Ed561 says: Sep 12, 2010 12:22 PM

    It is possible that this rule change will affect all teams, since the quarterback cannot snap the ball until the line/side judge signals the QB the ball can be snapped. Potentially, this will affect every play since the QB has to snap the ball BEFORE the play clock expires. Hmmmm….has anyone mentioned the play clock yet??

  20. edgy1957 says: Sep 12, 2010 3:30 PM

    Gotta laugh at what may have been the first delay of game that I’ve seen called against the Colts when they’ve either managed to get it off when the clock it 0 OR the Colts have called timeout. A little pay back for making them look bad during the preseason? :)

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