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Football Officials and Their Duties

Officials, Referees, and Umpires... What's the Difference?


NFL Official

Kenneth Darby #33 of the St. Louis Rams runs into umpire Garth DeFelice #53 against the San Francisco 49ers at the Edward Jones Dome on December 21, 2008 in St. Louis, Missouri. The 49ers beat the Rams 17-16.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Football officials... the men on the field we all love to hate. But without these keepers of the rules, a football game could not progress with any sort of structure or sanity.

Officials play a very important role in the game, from keeping the game rolling along and calling penalties when a rule is broken, to making sure the athletes don't unnecessarily hurt each other. Officials are responsible for monitoring the game clock and play clock, enforcing the rules of the game, and recording all rule infractions.

You often hear them referred to by the general term of referee, but there is actually only one referee on the field during a game. Each official (usually seven in college and NFL games) has his own title and assigned responsibilities. Following are the responsibilities of each along with their positioning on the field:

Head Linesman
Line Judge
Back Judge
Field Judge
Side Judge

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