Dallas Cowboys

NFL will experiment with 8 officials on the field

The NFL will be experimenting with eight officials in this weekend’s preseason games around the league. Jason Garrett and his Dallas Cowboys host Miami Friday night at AT&T Stadium.
The NFL will be experimenting with eight officials in this weekend’s preseason games around the league. Jason Garrett and his Dallas Cowboys host Miami Friday night at AT&T Stadium. AP

Who said NFL officials can’t see everything?

For one week, maybe they can.

The NFL is experimenting with eight officials on the field of play during all preseasons games this weekend.

The Dallas Cowboys will be hosting Miami at AT&T Stadium Friday night. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

The league has used seven-person officiating crews since 1978 when the side judge was added to the crew.

The eighth official, called the “MJ” or “middle judge”, will help further the goal of trying to reduce the amount of times an official is responsible for multiple areas of the field that might not be in proximity to each other.

"How the eighth guy fits in, we'll just see how it is and everybody will evaluate it afterward,” Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.

The eighth official will line up approximately 20 yards downfield from the line of scrimmage. From there, the middle judge will focus on the center and two guards, with a particular emphasis on spotting defensive holding penalties.

Speaking of extra eyes.

Garrett wants to know who is responsible for placing the ball during the final 2 minutes.

Generally, the umpire is in the offensive backfield, about 10-12 yards behind the line of scrimmage opposite the referee, who typically spots the ball on run plays.

“One of the interesting things that they’re working through is someone spotting the ball in a two-minute situation. We took the umpire away from the regular down and distance plays, but in 2-minute in the last few years they inserted him back in there so now they’re taking him out of there, so that’s an interesting thing in regard to officiating that we have to practice and be on top of,” Garrett said. “We asked the officials about that and they seemed confident there is going to be someone coming in spotting the ball because what you do is you teach your players to get up, look for the guy and hand it to them. Now, where is that guy coming from?

“Typically that guy is right there and he’s between the hash marks and you can do that. They’re saying someone from behind, someone from the side, someone from somewhere is going to come in here and do that job after the play, so that’s an interesting thing. The extra official, how that impacts us, I don’t know. I know the first one does.”

Dallas Cowboys beat writers Clarence Hill and Drew Davison discuss the Cowboys-Rams preseason game at the L.A. Coliseum Saturday. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)

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