I’m going front page with this, because it’s a big one.
The NFL has updated it’s procedures for umpire placement. Here’s the content of the memo:
1. Umpires will be lined up no more than 12 yards from the line of scrimmage. At the beginning of the preseason, they were approximately 15 yards back.
2. The Umpire must be beyond the deepest offensive player before the offense can legally snap the ball. Originally, the ball could not be snapped until the Umpire had assumed his position.
3. A line of scrimmage official (either the Head Linesman or Line Judge) will signal when a legal snap is permitted. The original procedure required the quarterback to check with the Referee. The official will signal when the Umpire (or the Referee, if that is the case) is even with the deepest player.
4. Umpires will assume a position on the defensive side of the ball after the two-minute warning of the second quarter and inside five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, instead of after the two-minute warning of each half.
5. Umpires will assume a position on the defensive side of the ball when the offense is at or inside the defensive five-yard line. For potential scoring plays near the goal line, it is useful for the Umpire to be operating in close proximity to the line of scrimmage.
6. Since this is a change in mechanics, the Referee has the authority to warn the offense that it could be penalized for an illegal snap for future action. This is similar to other situations in which warnings may be issued (i.e., tackles not on the line of scrimmage, etc.). However, in the event of a clear violation, a foul will be called without warning.
In addition, the referees and umpires will meet on Friday in Dallas to review the preseason and the mechanics of the umpire position (A conference call will be held with the referee and umpire in advance of Thursday night’s game to review the same material).
As a reminder, the most important factor in considering the move of the Umpire to the offensive backfield is the safety of the Umpire.
This is a marked improvement. Of special note is the language of adding a ‘warning’ about quick snaps, the change that the ump only has to be behind the deepest member of the backfield, and the ump moves to the defensive side inside the five yard line. I doubt this becomes a problem more than a couple of times a year. Moving the ump behind the defense inside the five is great. That’s one of the times Manning most likes to go quick.
As long as the umpires hustle into position, we won’t notice this.