Sunday, October 25, 2009
Umpires might wear helmets in 2010
By Adam Schefter
After watching players collide with umpires far too often in this and in recent seasons, the NFL's Competition Committee will address the safety of its officials after this season, two NFL sources said.
Ultimately, umpires could be equipped with helmets like the players they try to officiate, or they could be shifted to different areas of the field further away from danger.
If the league opted for helmets for its umpires, they could be like the ones players wear or even an ear-flap baseball helmet.
The NFL has grown increasingly concerned with the types of collisions it witnessed Monday night, when the Broncos and Chargers played and umpire Butch Hannah got hit by San Diego safety Steve Gregory.
On Sunday, back judge Richard Reels was injured on Percy Harvin's 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown late in the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings. Reels was attended to by medical personnel for several minutes, but walked off the field under his own power.
Earlier this season, in a Week 2 game between the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons, umpire Garth DeFelice was knocked down four times in one game.
And last December, DeFelice collided with then-Rams running back Kenneth Darby, delivering a forearm shiver that was more dangerous to player than umpire. At that time, the topic generated some discussion within the competition committee, but ultimately the talks never went far and no changes were adopted.
This time there is reason to think they will be. Players have gotten too big and too fast, and umpires -- who stand behind inside linebackers when the football is snapped -- have gotten in their way too often.
But either way, the committee knows it must address this issue, and the soonest it can is after this season. It already did recently at the NFL owners meetings in Boston two weeks ago.
Adam Schefter is ESPN's NFL Insider. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.