The NFL has tweaked once again the rules regarding the pre-snap positioning of the official in charge of keeping his eyes on the trenches.
The league has announced that the umpire will remain behind the offense with the referee when the football moves inside the defense’s five yard line.
Previously, the umpire moved from behind the offensive line to a position behind the defensive line except during the final two minutes of the second and fourth quarters, and when the offensive had moved inside the five. Now, the umpire will be behind the defensive line only in the final two minutes of either half.
The change also applies to the two-point conversion attempt, and the release from the league acknowledges that an increase in two-point tries is expected given the move of the one-point kick to the 15.
“It specifically addresses game action when the offense gets close to the goal line,” the league said, “which effectively shrinks the field, giving the umpire less room to maneuver among the players and increasing the chances of the official getting hit.”
Five years ago, the league moved the umpire to the offensive backfield to take him out of the zone of potential accidental contact. It was noted then that changes of this nature can be made at the direction of the Commissioner and without ownership approval.