In its continuing efforts to protect players and officials from unnecessary risk and better position officials to make the right call, the NFL’s Competition Committee is changing where the umpire lines up on certain plays. For the 2015 season, the umpire will remain in the offensive backfield any time the offense snaps the ball inside the defense’s 5-yard line moving toward the end zone.
Until now, the umpire has lined up in the offensive backfield opposite the referee on most plays. However, during the last two minutes of the second quarter and the last five minutes of the fourth quarter, and any time the ball is snapped within the 5-yard line, the umpire has moved to the defensive backfield.
The new placement of the umpire applies only to plays within the 5-yard line. It is designed to protect the official from unnecessary risk of injury, will have no effect on the hurry-up offense, and will put the umpire in a better position to make the right call on plays near the goal line. It specifically addresses game action when the offense gets close to the goal line — which effectively shrinks the field, giving the umpire less room to maneuver among the players and increasing the chances of the official getting hit.
With the new PAT rules, the Committee also expects an increase in two-point conversion attempts, creating even more opportunities for umpires to be vulnerable and out of position. By moving them to the offensive backfield, they can focus on effectively officiating their position and worry less about getting caught in the action.