During week 2 of the 2015 preseason, the NFL will experiment with eight officials on the field of play. 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.
During week 2 of the preseason, the league will be testing an additional official in the field of play and whether that eighth official will help improve the officiating process.
“We are going to look at positioning the eighth official in a couple of different areas,” said NFL 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 13 of the weekend’s 16 games. In eight games, the extra official will be positioned in the offensive backfield, joining the referee and the umpire. From this location, the “U2” will focus on the center pre-snap and the guard and tackle on the side of the formation closest to where he or she is positioned.
In five games, the extra official will line up approximately 20 yards downfield from the line of scrimmage. From there, the “CJ” or “center judge” will focus on the center and two guards, with a particular emphasis on spotting defensive holding penalties.
“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.
Blandino’s staff will collect feedback and evaluate the experiment from the 13 games. The results potentially may determine that additional testing is needed. When they have enough information, they may decide 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.