NFL referees wear a black strap around their wrist and a string that goes around their fingers.
The reason referees wear the band on their wrist is to help them remember the current down. The string that goes around the referee’s fingers is going to indicate which down it is.
This wrist equipment referees use is called a down counter.
When the string is around the index finger of the official this indicates it is first down.
When the string is around the middle finger this signifies second down.
The ring finger represents third down and the pinky represents fourth down.
After each down is completed the official will switch the string from one finger to another.
There will be several officials on the field that will be wearing this down counter. This way they can confirm with one another if they believe they have missed or lost a down.
Why do some officials have straps on both wrists?
When watching football on television you may come to notice that one official may have a down counter on both his wrists as opposed to one.
On occasion, this is done by the head official so he can keep track of both the downs and the position of the football.
On one hand, he will use the down counter the same way the other officials are.
On the other hand, he will mark where the ball was last downed on the field. If the ball is to be played from the left hash mark then the string will be looped around the pinky on the left hand.
If the ball is on the right hash mark the string will be around the thumb. And finally, if the ball is placed in the middle of the hash marks then it will be around the middle fingers.
What is the blue flag officials carry?
You may notice that on occasion NFL officials will throw small blue bean bags onto the field.
These are not penalty markers they actually serve a different purpose entirely.
These blue bean bags are thrown when there is a change of possession. Any time a change of possession occurs the bag will be thrown to mark the location in which possession is established.
The purpose of this is to mark the location of the possession change in case it needs to be used for a penalty.
Penalties on plays in which possession changes can be called in two different ways.
They can call a spot foul where the penalty occurred or they can call a penalty from where possession was assumed.
If a player commits a holding penalty before the punt returner starts his return it will be assessed from the location in which they caught the ball. The officials can then look at the location the blue bean bag was thrown to determine the new starting location.
Why do officials throw their hats?
Once and a while an official on the football field will throw their hat from their head down onto the playing surface. Many fans watching at home notice this as it looks quite out of the ordinary.
There are two reasons that officials throw their hats during a football game.
The first is to call a penalty when they are out of flags. A ref is only equipped with a single penalty flag. If they see a second penalty on the same play they must then throw their hat to call it.
The other reason officials throw their hat is to mark a receiver as ineligible. When a player steps out of bounds of his own volition he is then marked as ineligible.
The official will throw their hat when this happens to mark the receiver as ineligible on the field.