NFL Officials Guide: What Does Each Official Do?

Here is our guide to the jobs undertaken by the seven officials in NFL matches.

The officials ahead of another NFL showdown.

Every Sunday, we see these people in black-and-white-striped shirts, running around American football pitches, throwing flags around.

But what is their job in games and what do they actually do? Here is our guide to the jobs undertaken by the seven officials in NFL matches…

Referee (R)

This is the person in ultimate control of the game and you’ll find him standing in the offensive backfield. They keep an eye on any potential false starts from the quarterbacks or running backs but there are a host of other responsibilities as they lead the team of officials.

Wearing a white cap to make them stand out, they communicate all the fouls that take place to the crowd and the millions watching at home.

They also determine whether those all-important first downs have been achieved by the offence.

Umpire (U)

The umpire’s main task is to liaise with the players to maintain control of the game. They mark off the penalty yardage and play a starring role in those bundles when the ball becomes loose and players from both sides dive upon it in the hope of gaining possession. It’s the umpire’s job to decide who has been successful.

If that did not keep them busy enough, they also have to look for false starts from the center, right and left guards in the offensive line.

Down Judge (DJ) and Line Judge (LJ)

These two perform similar tasks on opposite sides of the pitch and stay close to the sidelines, although the down judge, who used to be known as the hard linesman, is responsible for directing the chain crew, who measure whether first downs have been achieved in marginal calls.

On their respective side of the field, they look for offside and encroachment offences and they watch blockers and defenders on their side of the field.

Keeping an eye on whether players are out of bounds or not, they are also called upon to rule on potential offensive and defensive pass interference, defensive holding and illegal contact incidents.

Field Judge (FJ)

The field judge stands on the same side of the field as the line judge but 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Their main task is to look for illegal hand use and penalties in battles between wide receivers and defensive backs in their area of the field and have to rule whether passes have been completed just in front of them.

They also stand under the posts to see if extra points and field goals are good or not.

Side Judge (SJ)

The side judge performed a similar task on the opposite side of the field, ruling on completion and out of bounds within their area. They also become the primary timekeeper if there is a problem with the game clock.

Back Judge (BJ)

The back judge is responsible of the play clock and also manages the game in respect to interacting with the TV breaks.

They stand deep in the backfield and they have to be on the spot on a pass play following the flight of the ball to adjudicate on any issues between the receivers and the backs.

Bobbie is a big football fan across all levels, and he also has an impressive background in martial arts and is a regular provider of quality boxing and UFC content.
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