Line judge being vocal on the sideline

An Active and Vocal Line Judge is an Asset to the Crew

In past articles, I’ve covered a few wing precepts. I think it’s important to focus on the line judge in this article as the LJ is the crew’s “quarterback.” In a previous post, we learned one of the reasons we have football officials is to properly manage and administer the game. The R leads the crew and has situational authority (Rule 1-6); but the LJ, because he faces the chains (and does not have chain responsibilities), is a vital “administration facilitator.”

Bottom line, an assertive and vocal LJ is essential. If an LJ is passive, quiet, or “zoned out,” the crew cannot stay in rhythm and facilitate each team’s desired offensive tempo.

The Ball is Downed Close to the Line-to-Gain

When the ball is downed close to the LTG, after dead-ball officiating, the R will expect the LJ to declare the ball’s position. If the ball is downed within a yard (behind or beyond) the LTG, the LJ must kill the clock and “show and say” the down. Line judges, when this is the case, make sure you communicate with the R! Tell the R the position of the ball related to the LTG.

Don’t forget to give the kill-the-clock signal if the ball is close and one of the wings needs to spot the ball. Remember, the HL has his back to the chains and won’t always know if he needs to kill the clock and pinch. The HL can take his cue from the LJ and can copy the LJ’s “sense of urgency.”

There are three communication options when the ball is downed close to the LTG

1) “We’re short,”

2) “take a look,” or

3) “First down”

The R doesn’t have to look for himself if he has an assertive line judge. Don’t make the R continually ask, “What do you have?” when the ball is downed close to the LTG.

In this play, the ball is downed at the line to gain. The line judge does not kill the clock. He indicates the play resulted in a first down, but his muted mechanics do not demonstrate a sense of urgency to the linesman. You can see the linesmen twice look back to the chains. An assertive line judge would stop the clock and quickly pinch to the ball. One of the wings needs to spot this ball as it is so close to the LTG.

Here is another play where the line judge needs to be more demonstrative and assertive. The ball is downed at the line to gain, but neither wing stops the clock. You can see the referee look at the line judge at the end of the clip. the R should not have to ask the LJ for his judgment regarding the ball’s position. The LJ must be vocal and assertive. This will greatly enhance the crew’s performance and pace.

The Game Clock

The LJ is the primary “clock watcher.” After every down and after the R’s RFP whistle or silent wind, the LJ should take a peek at the clock to verify it’s properly running or stopped.

Penalty Enforcement

During penalty enforcement, the LJ remains at the beginning of the enforcement spot. He can’t zone out while the U marches off the penalty enforcement distance. He must pay attention to the penalty yardage and the number on the box.

Sometimes box personnel will incorrectly advance to the next down (instead of replaying the down) or keep the box on the previous down (instead of advancing to the next down after a dead-ball foul).