Football Ops

Football Ops

Protecting the integrity of the greatest game.

NFL Ops: Honoring the Game

It's our responsibility to strengthen the sport.

League Governance

Ensuring a consistent and fair game that is decided on the field, by the players.

NFL Rules Enforcement

Ensuring that players conduct themselves in a way that honors the sport and respects the game.

Fines & Appeals

The NFL's schedule of infractions and fines, and a process for appeal.

Economic & Social Impact

Honoring the league’s commitment to serve the communities where the game is played.

The NFL Ops Team

Meet the people behind NFL Operations.

The Game

The Game

Learn about the people, the jobs and the technology that deliver the best game possible to NFL fans across the U.S. and around the world. 

Gameday: Behind the Scenes

Countdown to kickoff: how NFL games happen.

Technology

In the NFL, balancing technology with tradition.

Impact of Television

How television has changed the game.

History of Instant Replay

Upon further review…

Creating the NFL Schedule

It takes hundreds of computers and four NFL executives to create the NFL's 256-game masterpiece.

The Players

The Players

Learn how NFL players have changed over time, how they’re developed and drafted and how the league works with them after their playing days are over.  

Evolution of the NFL Player

Creating an NFL player: from “everyman” to “superman.”

Development Pipeline

Supporting the next generation of players and fans.

Getting Into the Game

Preparing players of all ages for success at football’s highest level.

The NFL Draft

Introducing the next wave of NFL superstars. 

NFL Player Engagement

A look at the programs the NFL and its partners provide to help every player before, during and after his football career.

NFL Legends Community

Celebrating, educating, embracing and connecting all former NFL players with each other, their former teams and the league.

The Officials

The Officials

Discover the evolution of professional officiating, the weekly evaluation process and how the NFL identifies and develops the next generation of officials.

In Focus: History of the Official

“One thing hasn’t changed: the pressure. It will always be there.”

Inside NFL GameDay Central

The latest information from the NFL's officiating command center.

These Officials Are Really Good

Every week, officials take the field ready to put months of preparation, training and hard work on display, knowing that the whole world — and the Officiating Department — is watching.

Officiating Development

Officiating an NFL game takes years of training and experience. 

The Rules

The Rules

NFL Football Operations protects the integrity of the game by ensuring that the rules and the officiating are consistent and fair to all competitors.

In Focus: Evolution of the NFL Rules

The custodians of football not only have protected its integrity, but have also revised its playing rules to protect the players, and to make the games fairer and more entertaining.

2016 NFL Rulebook

Explore the official rules of the game.

NFL Video Rulebook

NFL SVP of Officiating Dean Blandino explains NFL rules with video examples.

2016 Rules Changes and Points of Emphasis

NFL Overtime Rules

NFL Tiebreaking Procedures

The NFL's procedures for breaking ties for postseason playoffs.

Signals Intelligence

The NFL's familiar hand signals help fans better understand the game.   

Stats Central

Stats Central

Go inside the game with the NFL's official game stats.  Sort the stats by season or by week.

Chart The Data

Chart and compare the NFL Football Operations stats you're looking for with the NFL's data tool. 

Weekly Dashboard

Get a snapshot of the current NFL game stats, updated weekly during the regular season.

ATC Spotters

Since 2012, ATC spotters have served as another set of eyes, watching for potential injuries from the press box.

When the NFL set up an injury video review system near the end of the 2011 season, it paid off almost immediately.
Trainers tend to Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy (12) after he was hit by Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh on Dec. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

Trainers tend to Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy (12) after he was hit by Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh on Dec. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

The league instituted the system after Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy took a helmet-to-helmet hit in a Dec. 8, 2011, contest and was sent back into the game without being tested for a concussion. The Browns said that the team’s trainers didn’t see the hit because they were tending to other players and that no one told them about it.

After the game, McCoy was diagnosed with a concussion.

“It seems inconceivable, but nobody alerted anyone,” team president Mike Holmgren said after he met with representatives of the NFL and the players union about the incident. “So how do we do this so the doctors get the information they need? Best thing we could come up with is putting in a process to have somebody say something.”

The league responded quickly: Within two weeks, independent certified athletic trainers (ATC spotters) were in place at every NFL game to serve as another set of eyes, watching for potential injuries. A video component was added to the new system before the wild card playoff games on Jan. 7 and 8, 2012.

In one of those games, a player took a knee to his helmet. The player went down, got up within 30 seconds and stumbled off the field. His teammates urged the team’s trainers to check him for a concussion, and he almost “faked” his way through the evaluation and went back into the game — until the team's head athletic trainer checked the video and saw that the player had collapsed from wooziness before getting back on his feet.

Seeing the potential benefit to player safety, the NFL permanently instituted a more sophisticated system before the start of the 2012 season.

ON-FIELD INJURY DETECTION AND INTERVENTION

The ATC spotter’s primary role is to observe play on the field and monitor the broadcast feed of that game to identify players who may potentially be injured on a play, with an emphasis on concussions and other head and neck injuries.

Using the injury video review system’s monitor and recording equipment to monitor, the ATC spotter watches and reviews network footage of the game. If the ATC spotter observes a play that may have resulted in a concussion or injury on the field, he or she will call that team’s bench area to speak with a credentialed team physician or the head athletic trainer to relay the details of the potential injury he or she observed. The spotter will confirm the player’s jersey number and the situation in which the injury may have occurred.

The ATC spotter must speak directly to the team physician, unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant, or head athletic trainer when reviewing a potential injury — the person who is assigned to answer the bench phones cannot relay the information to the team medical personnel.

The ATC spotter does not diagnose any injuries or suggest treatment, but simply alerts the team’s medical personnel to a potential injury, as well as describing how the injury happened when possible.

The injury video review system uses NFL Vision technology and the broadcast feed to allow the ATC spotter to watch the feed and the play on the field. From high above the field, the spotter, with help from an injury video technician, looks for potential injuries, with a special focus on concussions and other head and neck issues.

When the spotter spots a potential problem — either in real time or after reviewing replays — he or she tells the technician to tag and label the video. Blake Jones, director of NFL Football Operations, estimates that this happens about 10 times per game, noting that some of those may fall into the “better safe than sorry” category or be marked for post-game review.

When immediate action is required, the spotter can call the bench to speak with the team physician or head athletic trainer and provide details of a potential injury. The spotter can send the video via fiber optic cable to a sideline monitor where the physician or trainer can see the play. The medical staff, assisted by an on-field injury video technician, can ask for slow motion, specific angles, rewind and more.

STOPPING THE GAME

An NFL employee sets up a video review system used to help spot injuries on the field during NFL games. In 2015, the NFL gave ATC spotters in the press box the power to call a medical timeout. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

An NFL employee sets up a video review system used to help spot injuries on the field during NFL games. In 2015, the NFL gave ATC spotters in the press box the power to call a medical timeout. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

New in 2015, ATC spotters may use a medical timeout to stop the game to remove a player from the field for medical examination. The spotter can only stop play with clear visual evidence of two very specific criteria:

  1. A player who displays obvious signs of disorientation or is clearly unstable; and
  2. If it becomes apparent that the player is attempting to remain in the game and not be attended to by the club’s medical or athletic training staff.

If a situation meets these narrowly defined circumstances, the ATC spotter will take the following steps:

  1. If a player does not receive medical attention, the spotter will contact the designated game official and identify the player by his team and jersey number using the official-to-official communication system .
  2. Contact the medical staff for the team of player involved and advise them that the player appears to be in need of medical attention.

The designated game official will immediately stop the game, go to the player in question and wait for the team’s medical personnel to arrive and ensure that the player is attended to and escorted off the field.

The game and play clock will stop (if running), and remain off until the player is removed from the game. Both clocks will start again unless the play clock was stopped inside 10 seconds, in which case it will be reset to 10 seconds.

The player’s team will have an opportunity to replace him with a substitute, and the opponent will be able to match up as necessary. No member of the team’s coaching staff may go on to the playing field, and no other players may go to the sideline unless he will be replaced by a substitute.

Once the player is removed from the field, the team medical staff will conduct an evaluation of him as required by the governing protocols before making any decision regarding the player’s eligibility to return to play. The medical staff will make the return-to-play decision consistent with the leagues protocols.

Player evaluations must last at least one play, unless the team decides to take a timeout, the period ends, the two-minute warning occurs or the injury was due to a foul by an opponent. An injury timeout will not be charged to a team that has a player removed during this process.

All ATC spotters are retained and assigned by the NFL and must meet the following criteria:

  • Maintain a current certification by the NATA BOC
  • Have an undergraduate degree from a four-year program
  • Have a minimum of 10 years’ experience as an ATC
  • Have major college and/or professional sports experience
  • Never have been employed as a Head Athletic Trainer by an NFL team
  • Have not been employed by an NFL team in the past 20 years

Any deliberate attempt by a team to stop play unnecessarily; to prolong or delay the process; to improperly take advantage of a stoppage in play; or to influence the actions of the ATC spotter will be considered an “unfair act” and subject to appropriate discipline and to any penalty assessed by the game officials.

In the event the ATC spotter cannot communicate with the designated game official, then the ATC spotter will radio the league’s field communicator (“teal shirt”), who will relay the team and player’s number to the nearest on-field game official.

Español