Rules and Penalties

The Officials

NFL football officials

Football Fact: Sarah Thomas – 1st NFL female full-time Referee -Thomas was the first woman to officiate a major college football game, the first to officiate a bowl game, and the first to officiate in a Big Ten stadium. On April 8, 2015, Thomas was hired as the first full-time female official in NFL history, and for the 2017 season, she is on the officiating crew headed by referee Ronald Torbert. More on Sarah Thomas

American gridiron football is a full contact sport. The officials led by the referee keep the ball and order during the game. Let me explain. The officiating crew consists of several people generally wearing black and white vertical polo shirt and black caps except the main one who wears a white cap:

The referee – The One with the White Cap

The officiating crew is led by the referee, who is in charge of the game and watches action on the quarterback and the offensive backfield. Although in the begining all the referees dealt with the entire field but that is only some what true. Each officiant has a primary role.

The Umpire

Unlike Baseball the umpire handles spotting the ball and watches action on the offensive line.

The Head Linesman

This officiant supervises placement of the down box and line-to-gain chains.

Other Crew Members

The crew may consist of; a line judge, back judge, field judge and side judge each in charge of their own section.

How Penalties are Called

In football there are two possible signals indicating a penalty:

  1. Whistles
  2. Flags (Yellow) or if they run out of flags the officiant tosses their hat.
  3. Flags (Red) Coaches have to challenge a call.

The whistles are only used when calling a play dead or to stop time. During a game you will hear there’s a flag on a play or multiple flags on a play, by the announcers. This is when all of those cool officiant motions come into play and we the viewers get to watch a ton of instant replays to see which player(s) broke one of the plethora of rules that exist in the play book. (See officiant signals)

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