NFL Replay Rules
The NFL's replay rules and a look at the differences in the instant replay officiating aid systems for the NFL.

Old NFL Replay Rules:
  • A replay official in the television booth or press box would signal to the referee to stop play for a review.
  • Replay BoothOnly the replay official could decide which plays should be reviewed.
  • Only the replay official determined whether to overturn a call or let it stand.
  • There was no time limit on examination of a replay. Replay officials were not part of a game's officiating crew.
New NFL Replay Rules:
  • For the first 28 minutes of each half, coaches must challenge an official's call to have it reviewed.
  • Coaches are allowed two challenges per game. If a call is not overturned, the challenging team loses a timeout.
  • No challenges will be recognized if a team has exhausted its timeouts
  • In the final two minutes of each half and in overtime, only the NFL replay assistant in the television booth or press box can call for a video review. There is no limit to the number of replay reviews the replay assistant can request.
  • A review called for by the replay assistant is not tied to timeouts for either team.
  • The referee will make all determinations, regardless of time of game, after reviewing videos on a sideline monitor.
  • A time limit of 90 seconds has been placed on all video reviews.
  • Replay assistants will be part of a game's officiating crew.
"Our goal is to take advantage of advanced technology to create the most efficient replay system possible," said NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. "We believe we have developed that type of system. It uses advanced technology, but it is simple to operate. We did not want to bring back replay with the same system as 10 years ago. There will be a noticeable positive difference in the overall replay operation."

The system begins with the replay booth receiving a "live" feed from the network television control truck covering the game.

The technician in front of the live-feed monitor cues up the live play by pressing the "make play" button on his console as the ball is snapped. That automatically puts the play on a "touch-screen monitor" positioned in front of the replay assistant. When a replay comes up from the truck, the technician presses a "make replay" button and that automatically pops up on the touch-screen monitor. The monitor can accommodate six replay angles of a single play.

The replay assistant is positioned in front of the touch-screen monitor. This person decides which replays will be relayed to the field monitor for review by the referee after a coach's challenge is issued, and whether an official's time-out will be called for a play review in the final two minutes of each half and overtime.

The video operator at the instruction of the replay assistant, will tap the touch-screen monitor (similar to a bank's automatic teller machine that prompts commands by the tapping of its screen) to transfer one of the replays to the booth's third monitor that is positioned between him and the replay assistant. The video operator can control the speed of the playback on this monitor by the turn of a dial. This is the monitor on which the replay assistant will view all replays. The video on this monitor is what the referee on the field will see.

The communicator is the replay booth's eyes to the field. While the technician, replay assistant and video operator are doing their jobs, the communicator, stationed in back of the other three, is watching the field. He will advise the replay assistant who is busy viewing the monitor that "they're in the huddle," "they're on the line" and "the ball is snapped" so the replay assistant will know that the next play has started, negating the possibility of a replay. He will also report to the replay assistant if an official ruling (e.g. holding, illegal procedure, etc.) has been made on the field following a play that might eliminate the need for a replay.

The communicator also is the timer of the 90 seconds allocated to the referee to make a decision on a replay. Once 90 seconds are reached, the communicator will hit a red button on the console in front of the replay assistant that will automatically shut off the field-level monitor, signaling to the referee that the 90 seconds has expired and the review is over. The referee must then announce his decision.

If needed, the communicator will also explain a referee's ruling to the TV truck and to the teams' public relations directors in the press box for dissemination to the media.

A buzzer system will be utilized to signal the call for a replay. Before the final two minutes, the head coach will buzz the referee and replay booth that he challenges a play and wants a review. Within the final two minutes, the booth will buzz the referee, calling for a replay. The head coaches will wear a belt pack containing a buzzer. When pressed, the buzzer will simultaneously signal the referee, umpire and replay booth that a replay is being requested.

There will be three replay monitors at field level in open-air stadiums. Two will be positioned at opposite 20-yard lines near the sideline wall. A third will be in a runway, for use if there is inclement weather. Two monitors will be used in domed stadiums.

As the referee approaches the monitor, his first replay will await him. His 90 seconds for a decision begins when he puts on the headphones that put him in contact with the replay booth.

Reviewable Plays:
The instant replay system will cover a variety of plays in three main areas.

  • Sideline, Goal Line, End Zone, and End-Line plays.
  • Field goal attempts that bounce off the goal post are now reviewable under instant replay.
  • Passing Plays.
  • Other detectable infractions, such as a runner ruled down not by defensive contact, and the number of players on the field.