Report: NFL will move umpires to offensive backfield

It’s not an experiment this time.

The NFL will move umpires into the offensive backfield permanently this year in a safety move, a development first reported today by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.

Citing the protection of the officials as the motivating factor, departing vice president of officiating Mike Pereira said the move was being made. The league has tinkered with the idea in the past. Umpires were placed in the backfield on an experimental basis in the 2001 preseason. The league also looked at it by moving the men in action in now defunct NFL Europe.

According to the report, umpires, who lined up about five yards from the line of scrimmage between the tackles, were knocked down 100 times in 2009. Two men suffered concussions and three requires surgeries for knee and shoulder issues.

The key will be training them to see the same action in the trenches from the other side of the ball where they will line up opposite the referee. It’s going to give them a different perspective when it comes to holding, particularly on the interior of the line. The NFL will provide the umpires with additional training.

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