We could be seeing NFL referees have a bigger influence on games in the near future if an eighth official is eventually added to the typical seven-man crew.
Beginning this week, the NFL is experimenting with an eighth on-field official during a few preseason games. Among the games implementing the extra official will be the final Week 2 game between the Bengals and Buccaneers on Monday Night Football.
"We are going to look at positioning the eighth official in a couple of different areas," says NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino in a press release. "We want to try to fill some of the holes that may happen in specific situations over the course of a game."
Since 1978, the NFL has used seven officials: a referee, umpire, side judge, field judge, head linesman, back judge and line judge. In certain games this week, the eighth official will take a position in the offensive backfield, joining the referee and the umpire. From this location, the "U2" will focus on the center pre-snap, the guard and tackle on the side of the formation closest to where he or she is positioned. The Bengals vs Buccaneers game will have a "U2".
In other games, the eighth official will line up approximately 20 yards downfield from the line of scrimmage. From there, the "CJ" or "center judge" will focus on the center and two guards, with a particular emphasis on spotting defensive holding penalties.
Here are the 13 games that will feature an expanded crew with the positioning of the eighth official indicated in parenthesis:
Detroit at Washington (CJ)
Buffalo at Cleveland (U2)
Atlanta at New York Jets (U2)
Miami at Carolina (U2)
Baltimore at Philadelphia (U2)
Chicago at Indianapolis (U2)
New England at New Orleans (CJ)
Denver at Houston (CJ)
Oakland at Minnesota (U2)
San Diego at Arizona (CJ)
Dallas at San Francisco (CJ)
St. Louis at Tennessee (U2)
Cincinnati at Tampa Bay (U2)
Another new thing the NFL is testing this week will be the use of tablets for instant replay. Refs will be using Microsoft Surface Tablets for instant replay review during four games this week after previously experimenting with the tablets at the Pro Bowl this past January. The hope is that this helps eliminate the time it takes for an official to view review a play on the field for a review instead of having to go to the sideline to use the normal replay monitor there.
"The goal of experimenting with the tablets is to be more efficient in administering replay reviews," Blandino said. "We would like to determine if we can streamline the process."
Here are the four games this week that will feature the use of tablets:
Atlanta at New York Jets
Jacksonville at New York Giants
Green Bay at Pittsburgh
Dallas at San Francisco