NFL Officials

The NFL primarily uses seven NFL officials on any given Sunday. These officials call the game and keep control of the gameby making sure the players are following NFL rules.

When the NFL began play, only three officials (the referee, umpire, and head linesman) were used.

The field judge was added in 1929 and the back judge in 1947. In response to Fran Tarkenton a scrambling quarterback, the line judge was added in 1965 to watch the other side of the line of scrimmage.

The side judge was added for 1978, as the NFL included new rules to open up the passing game.

In 1975, the NFL referee started announcing penalties, clarifying complex and unusual ruling over a wireless microphone in the NFL. Soon after College football and other professional leagues adopted this practice.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is the only major North American sports league that has not inducted any game officials. The Baseball Hall of Fame, Basketball Hall of Fame and Hockey Hall of Fame have each inducted game officials as members.

The NFL is the only major sports league in the United States that only pays their NFL officials on a contract basis as opposed to being full time salaried employees.

Advantages to this system include being able to eliminate unqualified officials simply by not offering them a contract the following season, where terminating full-time employees would require them to show cause.

Some critics argue that having full-time NFL officials would free them from the distractions of a second job, but proponents of part-time officials point out that the NFL would lose a number of qualified officials because many of them are owners, presidents, or C.E.O.s of various companies.

Proponents also argue that there is only one game per week and the regular season is only 4 months long, and that having full-time officials does not necessarily guarantee that they will make fewer officiating mistakes.

I have always wondered how older NFL officials are able to keep up with the play on the field and not get in the way of the play and stay mostly injury free.

Now I know, being a CEO, President and owners of they're own company they have the time and money to take time off from their companies, handle the rigorous 17 week schedule and get in shape for the season. I remember as a kid seeing old fat guys but now I see officials who are good shape.

The level of training and review that NFL officials are require to participate in, makes any additional work as a full time employee redundant. Veteran officials are paid quit well for their work.

An official (right) watches Navy's Shun White (#26) score a touchdown. Visible on his belt are his yellow penalty flag and an orange bean bag.

NFL officials generally use the following equipment:

Used to signal a reminder to players that the ball is dead, i.e., that the play has ended or never began.

Penalty Marker or Flag
A bright yellow colored flag that is thrown on the field toward or at the spot of a foul. For fouls where the spot is unimportant, such as fouls which occur at the snap or during a dead ball, the flag is typically thrown vertically.

The flag is wrapped around a weight, such as sand or beans (or occasionally ball bearings, although this has been discouraged since an incident in an NFL game showed those could injure players), so it can be thrown with some distance and accuracy.

Officials typically carry a second flag in case there are multiple fouls on a play. Officials who run out of flags when they see multiple fouls on a play may drop their hat or a bean bag instead.

Bean Bag
Used to mark various spots that are not fouls but which may be possible spots of penalty enforcement or illegal touching of a scrimmage kick.

For example, it is used to mark the spot of a fumble or where a player caught a punt. It is typically colored white, blue, or orange, depending on the official's league, college conference, level of play, or weather conditions.

Unlike penalty flags, bean bags may be tossed to a spot parallel to the nearest yard line, not necessarily to the actual non-penalty spot.

Down Indicator
A specially designed wristband that is used to remind officials of the current down. It has an elastic loop attached to it that is wrapped around the fingers.

Usually, officials put the loop around their index finger when it is first down, the middle finger when it is second down, and so on.

Instead of the custom-designed indicator, some officials use two thick rubber bands tied together as a down indicator: one rubber band is used as the wristband and the other is looped over the fingers.

Some officials, especially Umpires, may also use a second indicator to keep track of where the ball was placed between the hash marks before the play (i.e. the right hash marks, the left hash marks, or at the midpoint between the two).

This is important when they re-spot the ball after an incomplete pass or a penalty.

Game Data Card and Pencil
Officials write down important administrative information, such as the winner of the pregame coin toss, team timeouts, and fouls called.

Game data cards can be disposable paper or reusable plastic. A pencil with a special bullet-shaped cap is often carried. The cap prevents the official from being stabbed by the pencil while it is in his pocket.

Officials will carry a stopwatch (typically a digital wristwatch) when necessary for timing duties, including keeping game time, keeping the play clock, and timing timeouts and the interval between quarters.

For recognition purposes, officials traditionally wore a black and white vertically striped shirt, white pants with a black belt, black shoes, and a peaked cap.

A letter indicating the role of each official appears on the back of the shirt. Shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, an American flag was added to the shirts of NFL officials.

The stripes were first introduced in the 1920s, before that plain white shirts were worn. College football referee Lloyd Olds is credited with the idea after a quarterback mistakenly handed the ball to him.

Officials are called "zebras" because of their black and white striped shirts.

The American Football League's existence (1960-1969), officials wore red-orange striped jerseys. The referees wore red hats, the others white, each with the AFL logo.

This look was recreated in 2009 during AFL Legacy Weekends to mark the 50th anniversary of the AFL's founding.

The United Football League, which launched play in October 2009, featured officials wearing solid red shirts (no stripes) with black numbers and black pants.

As no teams in the league wore red or orange, there was no prospect of a clash of colors. In 2010, the United Football League switched to a customized version of the traditional stripes.

NFL officials stripes on their shirts are two inches wide and socks have two white stripes bordering one black stripe.

In 2006, the NFL redesigned the officials shirts, going with a sleeker looking uniform which, no longer identified a given official's position from the front.

Also new for 2006 were black loose fitted pants with a white stripes down the side to be worn in cold weather climates.

For several decades, all NFL officials wore white hats. In 1979, the referees changed to black hats with white stripes, while the other officials continued to wear white ones.

Finally, in 1988, the NFL switched to the high-school and college football style: the referee wears a white hat (which now includes the NFL logo, first added for Super Bowl XXXIX), and the other officials wear black hats with white stripes.

Also NFL officials used their hats on occasion as additional equipment.

Here is an example i.e. if a player not carrying the ball steps out of bounds a wide receiver running a deep passing route or a player running down field on punt coverage, the official will drop his hat to mark the spot of where the player went out of bounds.

The hat also is often used to signal a second foul called by the official on a play (by those officials that may carry only one flag); to indicate unsportsmanlike conduct committed against the official himself (as when a player shoves an official); or when some other situation requires aphysical mark and the official has already used the ordinary item on the play.

Some conferences discourage the use of the hat in these situations, and the bean bag will be used instead.

NFL officials really have a tough job of watching plays, staying focus and not getting caught up of being a fan while watching the play and making the the right call.

I am glad to see that the NFL voted to have instant replay video, this was so needed to help out the NFL officials with the calls.

Let face it there will always be human error with the speed that these NFL players have.

The NFL needs instant replay to make sure the plays are called correctly. NFL teams have so much riding on the plays being called correct.

A incorrect call could cost a team a Super Bowl, regular season games, divisions, and playoffs.

Thank You NFL for putting instant replay in the game.