For the second consecutive year, the NFL will experiment with using an eighth official on the field. The test will take place during the second week of the preseason and will help the league determine whether an additional on-field official will help improve the officiating process. The league has used seven-person officiating crews since adding the side judge to crews in 1978.
Learn more about the history of NFL Officials.
“We are going to look at positioning the eighth official opposite the back judge,” said NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino. “We want to try to fill some of the holes that may happen in specific situations over the course of a game.”
The extra crew member will be tested in all of the weekend’s games. The extra official will line up approximately 20 yards downfield from the line of scrimmage. From there, the “MJ” or “middle judge” will focus on the center and the two guards, with a primary emphasis on the defensive side of the line of scrimmage, spotting second-level holding and helping with spotting the ball when teams are running hurry-up offenses.
“In order to apply the rules correctly on Sundays, you have to be in the right place at the right time,” said Al Riveron, Senior Director of Officiating.
In 2015, the league also experimented with an eighth official, testing both the middle judge and a second umpire, who lined up in the offensive backfield. The results of those tests led Blandino’s team to bring back the experiment with the middle judge for a second season.
See each NFL official’s responsibilities during games.
Officiating department staff will collect feedback and evaluate the experiment from the 16 games. The results may determine that additional testing is needed.
The experiments will help determine whether to keep the current crews at seven officials, or to recommend to the NFL’s Competition Committee that the league add an eighth official on game days.
The experiment is part of the NFL Officiating Department’s commitment to constantly exploring and improving all areas of officiating.