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.

2017 NFL Rulebook

Explore the official rules of the game.

NFL Video Rulebook

The NFL Video Rulebook explains NFL rules with video examples.

2017 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.

Signals Intelligence

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

An official extends both his arms above his head? Score. He wraps a hand around his wrist just below his clenched fist? Holding.

Today’s football fans know exactly what these gestures mean. They’re conversant in another language — the NFL’s officiating hand signals, which now number more than 35.

Umpire Sam Wilson signals for a touchdown in the 1956 NFL championship game between the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants. (AP Photo/Harry Harris)

Umpire Sam Wilson signals for a touchdown in the 1956 NFL championship game between the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants. (AP Photo/Harry Harris)

These signals were developed to improve communication between the officials and the game’s growing audience. In football’s early days, officials simply shouted when calling a penalty or stopping play for a timeout or other reason. Spectators who couldn’t hear the official were often confused about what was going on.

As the game attracted more fans, both in the stadium and through radio broadcasts, those watching and listening wanted a faster way of knowing what was happening.

As with many early changes, the innovation started at the collegiate level and was later adopted by the NFL. The consistent use of hand signals can be traced to a 1929 college game between Syracuse University and Cornell University.

Before kickoff, the radio announcers for that game approached the referee, Elwood Geiges, with an idea to improve their broadcast: They asked Geiges to devise signals to let them know what penalties he was calling and why he stopped play.

Geiges came up with four simple signals: offside, holding, illegal shift and timeout.

When he stopped the action, Geiges looked to the broadcast booth and flashed the appropriate sign. The nonverbal communication enabled the announcers to better describe the action. As the signals became more commonly used in the college game, professional football adopted them as well.

Some signals used today — for a safety, a touchdown and holding — are similar to those used decades ago. Other early signs, such as folded arms to indicate that a team declined a penalty, were modified over time as newer signals were introduced.

For example, until 1955, officials used a military-type salute to call unnecessary roughness penalties. The American Legion asked the NFL to change the signal because children were confusing the football signal with the salute to the nation’s flag. When Legion officials quizzed elementary school students about the meaning of the salute, a 12-year-old boy responded: “That means unnecessary roughness.”

The NFL changed the signal to a wrist above the head, and later tweaked it to the personal foul signal used today: one wrist striking the other above the head.

The growth of the game on television led the league to equip officials with one more communication tool. The NFL gave referees microphones in 1975 so they could provide clarification on the field to teams, to broadcasters and to fans in the stadium and at home.

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