Citing safety concerns, the National Football League this season decided to move the umpire from his previous position. The umpire used to be positioned on the defensive side of the ball, behind the linebackers. So this season, the NFL decided to position him on the offensive side of the ball, approximately 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
This hasn't worked out so well for teams running the no-huddle offense or for teams trying to quickly snap the ball to prevent the opposition from challenging the ruling on the previous play. The quarterbacks have had to wait for the umpire to get to his position before being allowed to snap the ball. If they snap it before the umpire is in his position, the offense gets penalized 5 yards. It's been very disruptive.
So this week the NFL sent out a memo to all 32 teams, informing them that the umpire will now position himself 12 yards from the line of scrimmage instead of 15. The umpires must now only get beyond the deepest running back - not established in position - before the ball can be snapped. The league feels the changes should make it easier for teams to use the no-huddle offense. Officials will now also have the discretion to issue a warning beefore enforcing the 5 yard penalty. Umpires will also go back to their old position - on the defensive side of the ball - during the final two minutes of the first half, the final five minutes of the game and when the offense is at, or inside, the opponent's 5-yard line.
But I heard someone a couple weeks ago suggest that we just keep the umpire in his old spot and give him a helmet. I'll take that a step further. Keep him in his old spot, give him a helmet AND pads. Or even better, you know how they have the camera located above the field for overhead shots? Let's put the umpire up in a basket above the field. That would really get him out of the way. Plus it would be fun during windy games watching him trying not to fall out of the basket.
You gotta admit, it would be another reason to watch football games that you didn't really care about.