Field judge

What is the Definition of A Field Judge in American Football?

In American football, the field judge plays a vital role in officiating the game, ensuring that rules are enforced and maintaining the order of play. As one of the seven officials on the field, they are responsible for overseeing specific areas and actions during the game, aimed at ensuring fair play and a well-regulated contest. Positioned on the defensive backfield’s sideline, approximately 20 yards from the line of scrimmage, they work in tandem with other officials like line judges and down judges to cover different parts of the field.

Field judges mainly focus on calling penalties in their area of the field, monitoring wide receivers and defensive backs, and determining if catches are made legally. As their positioning gives them a clear view of the sideline in their area, they also play a crucial role in spotting the ball and judging boundary line-related penalties. With their unique vantage point, the field judge is instrumental in making accurate and crucial calls that impact the outcome of the game.

Key Takeaways

  • Field judges are vital members of the officiating team in American football, responsible for various specific on-field duties.
  • They focus on penalties, catches, and boundary line judgments while positioned 20 yards from the line of scrimmage.
  • Field judges collaborate with other officials, such as line judges and down judges, to ensure accurate and fair gameplay.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Field Judge

A field judge in American football is an official with specific duties related to the play on the field. This role primarily focuses on monitoring wide receivers and defensive back coverage, ensuring fair play and adherence to the rules.

One of the key responsibilities of a field judge is to observe and make calls for illegal use of hands on wide receivers. They also watch out for out of bounds calls on their side of the field and pay attention to the positioning of hands for potential fouls.

Field judges are also responsible for tracking the number of defensive players on the field during each play. Ensuring that there are no more than the allowed number of players is crucial to maintaining fair play in the game.

Defensive interference on pass plays falls under the purview of a field judge. They watch closely for any infractions, such as holding, that might give an unfair advantage to one team or another.

When it comes to special teams, field judges monitor the legality of blocking during punts. They keep a close eye on the players and make calls if they spot any holding or illegal blocks taking place. As part of their role on special teams, field judges are also responsible for signaling the success or failure of extra points and field goal attempts.

In summary, the field judge plays a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of the game by monitoring various aspects of play and making important calls. Their attention to detail and understanding of the rules ensures that American football is played fairly and consistently at all levels.

Positioning and Movement on the Field


The field judge in American football is positioned on the sideline, 20 yards downfield from the line of scrimmage in the defensive backfield. Stationed along the same sideline as the line judge, the field judge’s placement allows them to have a clear view of the players and any potential penalties in their area of responsibility. Before the play begins, the field judge will observe the formation of both offensive and defensive teams, ensuring that all players are properly aligned and not committing any pre-snap infractions.

During the Play

As the play commences, the field judge’s primary focus is on monitoring illegal contact and pass interference calls. While following the flow of the play, the field judge should position themselves to get the best possible angle on potential penalties, such as offensive holding or defensive pass interference. This often involves moving parallel to the line of scrimmage while keeping an eye on the players in their area of supervision.

The field judge is also responsible for tracking the progress of the ball, particularly on long passes and kicks. They must ensure that they are in the appropriate location to make accurate calls on whether a pass is complete or incomplete, or if a kick is successful or not.


Once the play has concluded, the field judge is tasked with conferring with other officials, especially the line judge, when it comes to making penalty calls in their shared area of responsibility. In some situations, the field judge may be asked to provide input on calls made by other officials during the play, such as a fumble, touchdown, or disputed pass interference. Keeping an open line of communication with fellow officials is essential to maintaining accuracy and consistency in the game’s officiating.

Interaction with Other Officials

A field judge in American football is an official who is responsible for observing plays, enforcing rules, and making judgement calls related to specific aspects of the game. In order to effectively perform their duties, the field judge must work closely with the other officials on the field.

One of the key interactions a field judge has is with the line judge. Both are positioned on the sidelines in the defensive backfield, approximately 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. While the line judge focuses on offsides, encroachments, and false start calls, the field judge’s primary responsibility is monitoring illegal contact and pass interference between wide receivers and defensive backs. The two officials must communicate and coordinate to ensure the proper enforcement of the game rules and to maintain a consistent interpretation of the on-field actions.

Another important interaction occurs between the field judge and the head linesman. The head linesman is responsible for marking the line of scrimmage and making calls related to line play. In certain situations, such as when a pass is thrown near the sideline, the field judge may need to consult with the head linesman to determine if the receiver caught the ball in bounds or if the pass should be ruled incomplete.

The field judge also works closely with the referee and the umpire when it comes to fouls related to illegal uses of hands or holding. With their vantage point on the sideline, field judges can spot these types of infractions and communicate them to the referee or the umpire, who have the authority to penalize teams for such violations.

To ensure that the game proceeds smoothly and fairly, it is essential for the field judge to maintain effective communication and collaboration with all the other officials on the field. This includes exchanging information, discussing rules interpretations, and confirming calls when needed. By working together as a cohesive unit, the officiating crew can help to create a fair and enjoyable football experience for both players and fans.

Skills and Qualifications

A field judge in American Football is an important official who has specific roles and responsibilities throughout the game. To become an efficient field judge, a candidate must possess certain skills and qualifications.

Wide Vision: A field judge must have a broad vision of the playing field to observe and monitor the game effectively. This enables them to make accurate calls and judgments regarding illegal contact, pass interference, and other crucial aspects of the game.

Quick Reactions and Speed: As the game progresses rapidly, a field judge must have fast reflexes and the ability to quickly adapt to changing situations. This helps them to enforce rules efficiently, ensuring fair play and preventing misinterpretations that may affect the outcome.

Physical Stamina: Football officiating demands constant movement and being on one’s feet throughout the game’s duration. A field judge should have the physical stamina and endurance to withstand the demanding nature of the game to perform their duties effectively.

Knowledge of Rules and Regulations: A field judge should be well-versed in the American Football rules and regulations. This know-how is critical in making the correct calls during a game, ensuring the players and coaches abide by the established guidelines.

Communication and Decision-making: A field judge must have strong communication and decision-making skills. They need to effectively convey their calls and decisions to other officials, coaches, and players in a clear and concise manner. Conflict resolution, diplomacy, and the ability to keep calm under pressure are also essential attributes.

To become a successful field judge, a candidate usually undergoes rigorous training that includes lectures, demonstrations, and exercises on the basic rules, football mechanics, and officiating techniques. This prepares them to correctly and consistently call games at football’s highest level.

History and Evolution of the Field Judge Role

The role of the field judge in American football has evolved over time to adapt to the changing dynamics of the game. Initially, there were fewer officials in each game, but as the game became more complex and the rules expanded, the need for additional officials became apparent.

In the early days of American football, the field judge was primarily responsible for monitoring the sidelines and ensuring that players remained in bounds. This proved to be an essential function as the boundary lines were often blurred due to the lack of proper field markings. However, as football developed and the rules became more elaborate, the role of the field judge expanded to include more responsibilities.

Nowadays, the field judge is positioned on the sideline in the defensive backfield, approximately 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. They are one of seven officials in each game, lining up on the same side of the field as the line judge but on the opposite sideline. Their primary responsibilities include observing illegal contact, pass interference calls, and making sure that the defensive team has no more than 11 players on the field. They also closely monitor wide receivers and defensive back coverage, paying special attention to the positioning of hands to identify illegal use of hands or blocking fouls.

Over the years, technological advancements have further transformed the role of the field judge. The introduction of instant replay and video reviews has made it possible for field judges to review their decisions and correct any errors. This has not only led to more accurate officiating but has also increased the level of public scrutiny of the field judge’s decisions, as fans and coaches can now see replays of the same plays that the field judges are evaluating.

In conclusion, the history and evolution of the field judge role in American football have been marked by shifts in responsibilities and the adoption of new technologies. The position has evolved from a focus on monitoring the sidelines to a more comprehensive role involving key decisions that can alter the course of a game. As the sport continues to grow and develop, the role of the field judge will likely continue to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of the game.

Notable Field Judges

Field judges play a crucial role in American football games, as they are responsible for enforcing the rules and maintaining the order of the game. Positioned on the sideline in the defensive backfield, approximately 20 yards from the line of scrimmage, field judges primarily call penalties in their area of the field. With numerous field judges officiating games at the professional, college, and amateur levels, here we highlight a few notable field judges from NFL history:

Jeff Seeman is a well-known field judge in the NFL, with years of experience officiating games. He is known for his on-field precision and accuracy when making calls, as well as his ability to communicate effectively with other officials. Seeman has officiated in multiple playoffs and Super Bowls, exemplifying his skills and dedication to the sport.

Brad Freeman is another notable field judge, known not only for his accurate officiating but also for being an excellent communicator. Freeman started his career in the college football ranks before transitioning to the NFL. His success as a field judge has led him to officiate in multiple high-profile games, including playoff contests and Super Bowls.

In addition to their on-field responsibilities, notable field judges often contribute to the development and improvement of officiating as a whole. By mentoring younger officials, regularly attending training sessions, and taking part in rules discussions, these individuals play an essential role in maintaining the integrity and professionalism of the sport.

It is important to recognize the hard work and dedication of these field judges, as well as all the other officials involved in American football, who ensure the fairness and safety of each game for players, coaches, and fans alike.