NFL experimenting with putting umpire in offensive backfield
Don't be confused, NFL fans. That is indeed the umpire you're seeing in the offensive backfield this pre-season.
The league is conducting an experiment during exhibition games to see if moving the umpire can keep him out of harm's way.
So, for the first and third weeks of the pre-season, the umpires are lining up 12 yards behind the quarterback, alongside the referee instead of with the linebackers about five yards off the line of scrimmage.
Inside the five-yard line and the two-minute warning, however, the umpires will return to their usual spot in the defensive backfield.
Umpire Steve Wilson of Spokane, Wash., said the benefits are that the umpires won't get in the way of bullet passes. Because they're in charge of watching the interior linemen, they are in the bull's eye of a great deal of plays.
But Wilson said the biggest drawback is that the umpire will be twice as far away from the linemen and the play is "going away from us instead of toward us."
"We'll be looking at things from farther away and from a different angle, so it'll be interesting," Wilson said.
The experiment, which won't extend into the regular or post-season, will be reviewed to see if a full-time change in umpiring position is needed.
Wilson was among four officials in Green Bay to discuss the new rules and work the Packers' intrasquad scrimmage Saturday night.
Referee Ed Hochuli said fans will see a crackdown on taunting this year and also a more liberal interpretation of roughing the passer. The NFL plans to suspend defenders for a game following unnecessary hits on the quarterback.
The "UmpCam" will return this season, but Wilson hopes there is some modifications.
"The camera on the cap isn't a problem," he said. "It's the pack we wear on our backs. I'm hoping they can miniaturize the camera pack."