NFL may install cameras on sidelines, goal lines to aid replay reviews

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Sometimes when a referee reviews a replay of a close call about whether the ball crossed the goal line, or whether a player’s toe touched out of bounds, he ends up announcing that there was no conclusive replay angle, and so the play will have to stand as called on the field. Those plays raise a question: Why isn’t there always a camera fixed along every goal line and sideline, to provide the correct angle?

That question may no longer come up starting this season, as one of the new rule proposals that NFL owners will vote on next week is to install six permanent cameras in every stadium, with one on each goal line, one on each sideline and one on each end line.

The new rule was proposed by the Patriots, which is no surprise because coach Bill Belichick has long argued that the NFL needs to put cameras in place to ensure the necessary replay angles are available.

“When you challenge a play, you have no way of knowing what the camera angles are,” Belichick said in 2008. “If we at least had a camera placed like in tennis, on the goal line, the end line, and on the sideline so you have six cameras [and] you know that [if] the play involved any one of those positions, you at least have a camera angle on it, so you know what you are challenging.”

Of course, the difference between football and tennis is that line calls in tennis are a lot simpler. Tennis has the best replay in any sport because in tennis, it’s as easy as determining whether the ball was in or out. In football, it’s a lot more complicated. The question isn’t only whether the ball crossed the goal line; the question is which came first, the ball crossing the goal line or the player’s knee touching down. The question isn’t only whether the receiver got his feet down in bounds; it’s whether he had possession of the ball and his feet down in bounds simultaneously.

There’s also the matter of having 22 players on the field, any one of whom could obscure the view of the camera. Sometimes a camera along the goal line just captures a large mass of bodies, and there’s no way to tell where the ball is.

Still, after an NFL season in which it seemed like a week couldn’t go by without an officiating controversy, it makes sense for the NFL to do all it can to help the officials do their jobs better. Belichick’s proposal wouldn’t fix every bad call, but if it even fixes a few, it’s worth it.

38 responses to “NFL may install cameras on sidelines, goal lines to aid replay reviews

  1. Let’s have a five minute review of each play. That way the game would last all afternoon and think of all the money the NFL would make from commercials.

    The No Fun League is living up to its name.

  2. It’s actually not that hard at all.

    If every camera is precisely clock-synchronized, any moment in time can be frozen and viewed at multiple angles, ideally not by a referee on the sideline but rather by a headquarters-centralized officiating team seeing all camera angles side-by-side, displayed simultaneously on a grid (3×3 or 4×4).

    Here’s how that would work:

    “We can see the ball come loose with camera #1, and we can see the knee go down with camera #4. Based upon the moment the ball came loose (camera #1), was the knee down yet (camera #4)? If no, it’s a fumble. If yes, it isn’t.”

    Not only would the results of replay be far more accurate, but this would take a fraction of the time (that it currently does) to yield a much more accurate answer. The referee would simply push a button (either of his own volition or because of a coach’s challenge) and get the call from HQ delivered straight to his headset. And if it’s too loud to hear, he can look at the device in his pocket that displays text messages from HQ.

  3. It’s about time.

    We used to have TV cameras set up right on the goal line to see if a ball carrier broke the plane, but that went away a few years ago.

    Seemed absurd that they got rid of that. Glad to see they might reinstate the obvious.

  4. I have been saying for years, why dont they have a cam that points right down the goal line and just stays there all game. it seems every goal line review is from a angle and its not 100% accurate.

  5. What about those 22 players running over and destroying those cameras that are ‘fixed’ in place through out a game?

  6. Yes, we’ve all seen plenty of goal line replays with the camera right there and no clear answer.
    Also, a camera on the sideline is apt to get “accidentally” pushed into the way of an opposing player by certain coaches or coaching staffs.

  7. I’m sorry but you’ve got to admit the humor and irony here. Belichick, of all people, asking for more cameras and camera angles. It’s like Pete Carroll asking that more “supplements” be declared legal. Pretty funny.

  8. Oh!Oh! I gotta come up with a clever Patriots joke that people haven’t heard a thousand times before. Gee, maybe not. I’ll just use the same ole crap.

  9. This is only 10 years too late..they’ve had mini csmeras at radio shack since the 90s lol. The bigger problem is not all games get the same number of cameras. A Browns Jaguars game for example wont get the same number of cameras as say Seahawks v 49ers. How is that competitive balance?

  10. So when can we finally get every call right, or even close to it? Goodell keeps claiming that’s what they want, but actions clearly are not remotely coming close to matching up with his stated position.

  11. See… The NFL needs to make sure the degenerate gambler is treated fairly.
    That is what drives this market.
    Don’t kid yourselves.
    TV ratings is the small picture.

  12. Why only 6 cameras?

    Would it not make more sense to have 12?
    One on BOTH sides of the field, to allow views
    from BOTH side lines/end lines/goal lines?

    Why would the NFL only do this half-assed?

    Don’t you DARE say cost….

  13. robbieboston says:
    Mar 22, 2014 3:52 PM
    I hate the spygate trolls but have at it! This post was tailored for you. Knock yourselves out!


    if it walks like a duck…if it sounds like a duck…..if it smells like a duck…IT’S A DUCK!

  14. The instant I saw the headline of this article, I knew the author, and I knew who would be in the picture. Just pitiful.

  15. Whatever you do NFL, do not install cameras on the goal line to aid in review of close touchdowns. This makes too much sense for the most important play of the game. Instead let’s have cameras at awkward angles for review so we can guess if the ball crossed or not.

    Make sure we have cameras available to capture close ups of Sanchez picking and wiping boogers.

  16. They keep calling time outs for official reviews just drags out the game and allows for MORE TV commercials. Boring and a waste of time. Soon it will be like baseball where everyone stands around spitting and scratching.

  17. Well no kidding. Something we all knew should have happened long ago. DUH. Just like when it takes 10 minutes for a replay. No need for the ref to go under the hood. Just have a ref watching it on tv. Sheesh some of this stuff is so simple and easy to fix. But they wont.

  18. Some of you people are STUPID!!!! The cameras dont have to actually be on the field to get the right shot. Seriously, I dont think the players are going to bump the cameras permanently mounted 60′ above the playing surface

  19. Apparently a lot of people are unaware there is this thing called “zoom”. No, the cameras aren’t going to literally be on the goal line.

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