Officiating Change Gets Colts' Attention

Indianapolis Colts team president Bill Polian wanted to set the record straight. When it comes to the National Football League's new policy on where game officials are positioned and how those changes relate to what happens on the field — specifically how quickly the ball gets spotted before and is marked ready for play — Polian has adopted a wait-and-see attitude.

"About five or six years ago, we experimented with putting the umpire in the ([offensive) backfield (rather than lining up on the other side of the ball behind the linebackers) because we felt then that there was a physical danger issue. It was a safety issue (for the game officials). That issue has become more exacerbated over time," Polian explained.

"And so it was the intent of the committee and the officiating department to make sure that we created a situation that was as safe as possible for these guys. And it had reached the point where the league office staff felt that the physical danger out there and safety of the umpire was becoming an issue. And so we changed his position. We recognized that there would be mechanical issues and issues with respect to certain penalties that might or might not be called based upon the new position. When we make a change, whether it be a rule or a change in mechanics, it normally takes two seasons to see the full extent of it. We are very well aware of that."

Game official crews spent time with NFL teams during the first two weeks of training camp, trying to explain the new policy and how it could affect teams once preseason game commenced.

"The mechanics came forth about a month ago, the first week in training camp. There's been ongoing discussion among the competition committee people, and I'm sure others around the league. (The new policy) is a work in progress," he said.

"We recognized as a committee that the third preseason game was going to be a good test because, in virtually all cases, the top-line players were playing and playing a long time. In our case, we told the league office and the league officiating department that we would do all we could to push the tempo, to try and create situations where we could find out what kind of picture we were going to see. And that's what occurred. We'll go back and talk about the post-mortem. I'm sure there are some tweaks (to how the policy is implemented) that they will make and we'll move forward."

The Colts were penalized twice for illegal snaps during a recent preseason loss to Green Bay. They were penalized once deep in Packers territory as quarterback Peyton Manning tried to get a play off quickly to prevent a replay challenge after a catch by receiver Anthony Gonzalez.

Manning was visibly upset by the penalty and wondered after the game how the rule was going to be enforced during the regular season.

"I don't think there are many (issues). I think they are mechanical in nature. I don't think we'll see the full import of it until we get well into the regular season and certainly get a full seasons work with it," Polian said.


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