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

The NFL Video Rulebook 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.

Officials' Responsibilities & Positions

The seven NFL officials on the field have specific roles and responsibilities that make it possible to correctly and consistently call games at football’s highest level. Proper training and positioning prepare officials to be in the right place to make the right call. Hover your cursor over the officials to see where they line up, what they watch for on every play and what they do between plays to keep the action moving.

Hover over an official's position to learn about their responsibilities.

Referee (R)

Position

  • Offensive backfield 10–12 yards behind the line of scrimmage (LOS)

General Responsibilities

  • Known as the crew chief
  • Leader of officiating crew on and off the field
  • Oversees everything related to the officials
  • Maintains the pace of the game
  • Wears white cap
  • Signals all fouls
  • Counts the offensive players on the field
  • Final authority on disputed rulings and instant replay reviews

Run Plays

  • Watches the snap
  • Follows quarterback until action moves downfield
  • Then follows runner to determine forward progress and position of the ball
  • Determines first downs or if a measurement is necessary

Pass Plays

  • Shadows quarterback from drop to release
  • Drops back as the play starts and monitors offensive tackles
  • Turns attention solely to quarterback as defense approaches
  • Watches for roughing the passer
  • Rules on intentional grounding
  • Makes the decision whether a loose ball is a fumble or incomplete pass

Special Teams

  • Watches for illegal contact on the kicker or punter

Head Linesman (HL)

Position

  • On the sideline opposite the press box, looking directly down the LOS

General Responsibilities

  • Oversees LOS
  • Directs the chain crew
  • Watches for offsides and encroachment penalties
  • Rules on sideline plays on his half of field
  • Counts offensive players on field
  • Informs referee of the current down

Run Plays

  • Watches for offsides or encroachment at line
  • Monitors sideline on plays run to his half of the field
  • Determines when and if runner is out of bounds
  • Marks runner’s forward progress

Pass Plays

  • Watches his receiver for first 7 yards of route downfield until receiver is clear of point of legal contact for defensive backs
  • Monitors receivers and defenders on his side of the field
  • Watches for pass interference

Special Teams

  • Observes LOS for offsides and encroachment
  • Rules on penalties involving blockers and defenders on trick plays

Side Judge (SJ)

Position

  • Defensive backfield, 20 yards behind line toward same side of the field as head linesman

General Responsibilities

  • Backs up official clock operator
  • Serves as the primary timekeeper if clock malfunctions
  • Counts defensive players on field
  • Signals referee when time expires at end of each quarter

Run Plays

  • Watches widest receiver on his side of field blocks, looking for illegal use of hands, holding or pass interference
  • If play goes to his side of field, determines if runner goes out of bounds

Pass Plays

  • Makes sure widest receiver on his side of field is able to run his route without defensive interference
  • If play goes to his side, determines whether a pass is complete
  • Rules if receiver is in or out of bounds at time of catch
  • Watches for pass interference

Special Teams

  • On punts, covers returner and any action around him
  • Joins umpire in defensive backfield on field goal and PAT attempts
  • Watches for infractions along the LOS

Back Judge (BJ)

Position

  • Deep defensive backfield, 25 yards downfield, generally on tight end’s side

General Responsibilities

  • Focuses on tight end and action surrounding him
  • Responsible for players on the end of the lines
  • Counts defensive players on field
  • Keeps track of 40- or 25-second game clock and all television breaks

Run Plays

  • Keys on tight end, looking for illegal blocking or defensive penalties

Pass Plays

  • Watches tight end and rules on illegal use of hands or defensive interference
  • Decides if receiver made a legal catch
  • In case of fumble, determines who recovered the ball

Special Teams

  • Rules on fair catch and fair catch infractions
  • Lines up under goal posts to rule whether field goals and extra points are good

Field Judge (FJ)

Position

  • Defensive backfield, 20 yards behind the LOS toward the same side of the field as the line judge

General Responsibilities

  • Watches receiver split widest on his side of the field for illegal use of hands and blocking fouls, and for penalties on defensive back covering him
  • Watches sidelines to determine if runners are in or out of bounds
  • Counts defensive players on the field

Run Plays

  • Watches widest receiver block, looking for illegal use of hands or holding
  • If play goes to his side of field, determines if runner goes out of bounds

Pass Plays

  • Focuses on widest receiver on his side of the field to make sure the player is able to run his route without defensive interference
  • If play goes to his side, rules on whether pass is complete
  • Rules if receiver is in or out of bounds when catch is made
  • Watches for pass interference

Special Teams

  • Rules on blocking during punts
  • Lines up under goal posts to rule whether field goals and extra points are good

Line Judge (LJ)

Position

  • On opposite sideline from head linesman, looking directly down the LOS

General Responsibilities

  • Watches LOS for offsides and encroachment
  • Counts offensive players on the field
  • Rules on plays near the sideline on his half of the field

Run Plays

  • Watches for offsides and encroachment before snap
  • Watches blockers and defenders on his side of field for any penalties

Pass Plays

  • Covers offsides and encroachment penalties on his half of field
  • Follows his receiver for seven yards downfield
  • Moves into offensive backfield to determine if pass is forwards or backwards
  • Makes sure passer is behind LOS when he throws ball

Special Teams

  • On punts, stays at LOS to make sure only men on the ends of line move downfield before kick
  • Rules whether kick crosses LOS
  • Watches the kicking team for penalties

Umpire (U)

Position

  • Offensive backfield, 10–12 yards behind the LOS, opposite the referee

General Responsibilities

  • Maintains control at the LOS by watching for holding and blocking infractions
  • Reviews players’ equipment
  • Counts the number of offensive players on the field
  • Marks off penalties
  • *Being this close to the action made the umpire the riskiest officiating position, motivating the NFL to move him to the offensive backfield

Run Plays

  • Before the snap, watches for false starts on offensive line
  • During play watches for illegal blocks by offense or any defensive infractions on the LOS

Pass Plays

  • Before the snap, watches for false starts on offensive line
  • If offensive line shows that a play is a screen pass, shifts to intended receiver to make sure that player is able to run his route
  • Watches for blocking penalties

Special Teams

  • Moves to the defensive side of the ball on field goal attempts
  • Watches for infractions
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