The NFL has come under scrutiny during the preseason for its shifting of the umpire from the defensive backfield to the offensive backfield in an effort to make the game safer for the officials. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said the move would potentially be a problem for the no-huddle offense; twice in last week's preseason game, the Colts were penalized for snapping the ball before the umpire was in position.
According to Judy Battista of the New York Times, NFL teams have received a memo from the league that suggests some tweaks to smooth out the system.
The league will not move the umpire back to the defensive side of the ball — which we think is a good move, since the idea was to make the game safer for those officials, many of whom have been in some nasty collisions in recent years.
Carl Johnson, the N.F.L.’s vice president for officiating, told Battista that the umpire does not have to stand as deep as the competition committee originally suggested. At the start of the preseason, the umpire was instructed to stand 14 to 17 yards behind the offense. After the Hall of Fame Game, he was told to stand 12 yards back so that the ball could be spotted more quickly after a play.
The NFL has also told quarterbacks they are now to look at the officials near the sidelines to get a signal that they can snap the ball, rather than turning around to take the signal from the referee.
“The intention was never to disrupt the tempo of a team or slow down any offense,” Johnson said.
Colts president and general manager Bill Polian, who is on the competition committee, said the Colts purposely pushed the tempo of the game last week to see how the umpire’s position would affect the offense.
“There are certain times in the game and certain downs and distances where it is going to become more of an issue, and they have to be aware of that and adjust to it,” Polian told the Times.