Illegal snap, number 18, offense. That’s not a penalty Colts fans are used to hearing. Not one Peyton Manning wants to hear either. But that was the call twice Thursday night in Green Bay. What is an illegal snap, anyway? A subtle NFL rule change has put the umpire in the way of the Colts offense.
The umpire is the official that spots the ball after each play on the line of scrimmage. For years, he put the ball down and stepped back just a few steps behind the linebackers for the snap. That’s a football war zone. The umpire was getting in the way. Too many men in zebra shirts got hit, tackled and hurt. Some teams were even trying to use the umpire as a pick to get receivers open.
So the NFL decided to move the umpire across the line of scrimmage, behind the running backs in a safe place. Here’s the problem. That’s about 10 to 15 yards away from the football. The umpire takes another second or two to get in position after each play. The quarterback is now required to wait for the umpire to be ready before he can snap the ball. He has to look behind him or check with the linesman.
The new rule is not conducive to the no huddle, quick snap Colts offense. We’ve all seen Peyton Manning hurry to the line and quickly snap the football, catching the defense unprepared or with too many men on the field. But the extra time it takes for the umpire to get in place also allows the defense to get ready.
The NFL is reviewing how this new umpire position is working in the preseason. Obviously, from the Colts perspective, it’s not working well. Peyton Manning called the penalties ridiculous. With all his antics and audibles at the line of scrimmage, Manning doesn’t want to be checking or waiting on the umpire.
Peyton suggested umpires in better athletic condition. Putting the umpires back on the defensive side with helmets and pads might be another possibility. But if this rule stands as is, the Colts offense will be slowed down a tick. The no huddle offense still will be effective. But defensive players won’t need to fake injuries quite as much to catch their breath or switch personnel.
Rich Nye, WTHR Sports Reporter
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