NFL Referees Jurisdictions, Postions and Duties.



NFL referees responsibilities is to oversee and control the game. He gives signals for all fouls and is final authority for NFL rules interpretations.

He takes a position in the backfield 10 to 12 yards behind line of scrimmage, favors right side (if quarterback is right-handed passer).

NFL referees determines legality of snap, observes deep back(s) for legal motion.

On running plays, he observes the quarterback during and after hand offs, he remains with him until action has cleared away, then proceeds down field, checking on the runner and contact behind him.

When the runner is downed, the NFL referees determines forward progress from the wing official and, if necessary, adjusts final position of the ball.

On pass plays, NFL referees drops back as the quarterback begins to fade back, picks up legality of blocks by near linemen. Changes to complete concentration on the quarterback as defenders approach.

His primarily responsible is to rule on possible roughing action on the passer and if football becomes loose, rules whether the ball is free on a fumble or dead on an incomplete pass.

During kicking situations, the referee primary responsibility is to rule on kicker’s actions and whether or not any subsequent contact by a defender is legal.

NFL referees stays wide and parallel on punts and will announce on the microphone when each period has ended.

NFL Referees Umpires


Umpire—Primary responsibility is to rule on players’ equipment, as well as their conduct and actions on the line of scrimmage.

He lines up approximately four to five yards down field, varying position from in front of weak side tackle to strong side guard. Looks for possible false starts by offensive linemen.

Observes legality of contact by both offensive linemen while blocking and by defensive players while they attempt to ward off blockers.

He is prepared to call rule infractions if they occur on the offense or defense. He moves forward to line of scrimmage when a pass play develops in order to insure that interior linemen do not move illegally down field.

If offensive linemen indicate screen pass is to be attempted, the umpire shifts his attention towards screen side, picks up potential receiver in order to insure that he will legally be permitted to run his pattern and continues to rule on action of blockers.

The umpire is to assist in ruling on incomplete or trapped passes when ball is thrown overhead or short. On punt plays, the umpire positions himself opposite of the referee in offensive backfield—5 yards from kicker and one yard behind.

NFL Referees Head Linesman


Head Linesman—Primarily responsible for ruling on offside, encroachment, and actions pertaining to the line of scrimmage prior to or at the snap of the ball.

Generally, he keys on closest setback on his side of the field. On pass plays, he is responsible to clear his receiver approximately seven yards down field as he moves to a point five yards beyond the line.

The head linesman’s secondary responsibility is to rule on any illegal action taken by defenders on any delay receiver moving down field.

Has full responsibility for ruling on sideline plays on his side, e.g., pass receiver or runner in or out of bounds.

Together with NFL referees, the head linesman is responsible for keeping track of the number of downs and is in charge of mechanics of his chain crew in connection with its duties.

The head linesman must be prepared to assist in determining forward progress by a runner on play directed toward middle or into his side zone.

He, in turn, is to signal to NFL referees or umpires what forward point ball has reached. The head linesman is also responsible to rule on legality of action involving any receiver who approaches his side zone.

He is to call pass interference when the infraction occurs and is to rule on legality of blockers and defenders on plays involving ball carriers, whether it is entirely a running play, a combination pass and run, or a play involving a kick. Also he assists referee with intentional grounding.

NFL Referees Judges


Line Judge—Straddles line of scrimmage on side of field opposite head linesman. Keeps time of game as a backup for clock operator.

Along with the head linesman is responsible for offside, encroachment, and actions pertaining to scrimmage line prior to or at snap. Line Judge keys on closest setback on his side of field.

The line judge is to observe his receiver until he moves at least seven yards down field.

He then moves toward backfield side, being especially alert to rule on any back in motion and on flight of ball when pass is made (he must rule whether forward or backward).

The line judge primary responsibility to rule whether or not passer is behind or beyond line of scrimmage when pass is made. He also assists in observing actions by blockers and defenders who are on his side of the field.

After a pass is thrown, the line judge directs attention toward activities that occur in back of umpire. During punting situations, line judge remains at line of scrimmage to be sure that only the end men move down field until kick has been made.

He also rules whether or not the kick crossed line and then observes action by members of the kicking team who are moving down field to cover the kick.

The Line Judge will advise the NFL referees when time has expired at the end of each period. Also assists referee with intentional grounding and determines whether pass is forward or backward.



Field Judge—Operates on same side of field as Line Judge, 20 yards deep. Keys on wide receiver on his side. Concentrates on the path of the end or back, observing legality of his potential block(s) or of actions taken against him.

Is prepared to rule from deep position on holding or illegal use of hands by end or back or on defensive infractions committed by player guarding him.

Has primary responsibility to make decisions involving sideline on his side of field, e.g., pass receiver or runner in or out of bounds.

Field Judge makes decisions involving catching, recovery, or illegal touching of a loose ball beyond line of scrimmage; rules on plays involving pass receiver, including legality of catch or pass interference.

He assists in covering actions of runner, including blocks by teammates and that of defenders; calls clipping on punt returns; and, together with Back Judge, rules whether or not field goal attempts are successful.



Side Judge—Operates on same side of field as Linesman, 20 yards deep. Keys on wide receiver on his side. Concentrates on path of end or back, observing legality of his potential block(s) or of actions taken against him.

Is prepared to rule from deep position on holding or illegal use of hands by end or back or on defensive infractions committed by player guarding him.

Has primary responsibility to make decisions involving sideline on his side of field, e.g., pass receiver or runner in or out of bounds.

Side Judge makes decisions involving catching, recovery, or illegal touching of a loose ball beyond line of scrimmage; rules on plays involving pass receiver, including legality of catch or pass interference; assists in covering actions of runner, including blocks by teammates and that of defenders; and calls clipping on punt returns.

On field goals and point after touchdown attempts, he becomes a double umpire.



Back Judge—Takes a position 25 yards down field. In general, favors the tight end’s side of field. Keys on the tight end, concentrates on his path and observes legality of tight end’s potential block(s) or of actions taken against him.

Is prepared to rule from deep position on holding or illegal use of hands by end or back or on defensive infractions committed by player guarding him.

Back Judge times interval between plays on 40/25-second clock plus intermission between two periods of each half; makes decisions involving catching, recovery, or illegal touching of a loose ball beyond line of scrimmage.

He is responsible to rule on plays involving end line; calls pass interference, fair catch infractions, and clipping on kick returns; together with field judge, rules whether or not field goals and conversions are successful; and stays with ball on punts.