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NFL Sky Judge Proposals Reportedly Withdrawn Ahead of Rules Meeting

Megan ArmstrongSenior Analyst IIMay 27, 2020

MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 02: Referee Bill Vinovich #52 looks on in Super Bowl LIV between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

NFL owners will vote virtually on rules change proposals Thursday, but one rule was taken off the table Wednesday. 

"Both 'sky judge' proposals are being withdrawn prior to tomorrow's virtual meeting on rule changes, sources say," NFL Network's Tom Pelissero relayed. "Expect the NFL to still test some expanded booth-to-official communication system in the preseason. But no officiating personnel added for 2020."

Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero

Adding a booth umpire/senior technology advisor could've supplanted last season's controversial pass interference replay rule, which wasn't renewed. But questions persist about how far that person's power should extend. Competition committee supports further analysis. https://t.co/xFYZ9kT94L

NFL.com's Judy Battista outlined what the proposed "sky judge" rule entailed last week:

"The Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers have both proposed the addition of a booth umpire—otherwise known as a sky judge— as an eighth game official. Those two teams also have proposed the addition of a senior technology advisor to the referee to assist the officiating crew.

"The competition committee sent a report to teams last month, in which it stated support for further analysis of on-field officials being assisted by officiating personnel who would have access to a video feed. The officiating department is working with on-field officials to figure out how video feeds could assist them. So, even if owners do not pass either of the new proposals outright next week, it is likely a version of some kind of addition to the officiating crew could be tested in the preseason for possible further implementation."

NFL Officiating @NFLOfficiating

We'll continue working w/ on-field officials to identify how existing or additional personnel can utilize in-stadium feeds to assist the crew. Following this, we'll communicate to clubs how these individuals may have roles in a preseason test for potential future implementation. https://t.co/jan7W5ltIz

NBC Sports' Peter King surveyed opinions from the likes of NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent, NBC rules analyst Terry McAuley and others about the proposed sky judge rule for his Football Morning in America column Monday.

"The concept of the eighth man in the booth has some merit," Vincent told King. "But we just don't have the pipeline [of officials] today. Can we get there? Yes. But today, it could be a challenge."

McAulay had the same concern: "Finding 17 people who have the skills to do the job and then clearly defining which rules can be enforced and which rules cannot be enforced are extremely problematic. Until there is a consensus on both of those issues, it would be difficult to imagine how this could be successfully implemented."

The NFL and NFL Referees Association reached a seven-year collective bargaining agreement at the end of September. However, officiating consistency came under fire throughout the 2019 campaign.

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