A side judge or SJ in football is an official that works fifteen yards past the line of scrimmage on the sideline. This official is responsible for making calls involving the sideline or his half of the field.
Side judges watch the receivers and defensive backs on running and passing plays for infractions. They also have responsibilities during punts, kickoffs, field goals, and extra points.
Common penalties that will be called by a side judge
Read on to learn about all the different responsibilities that a side judge has on a football
Every Down Responsibilities
Watching nearby players
One aspect of a side judges job is to watch the area near his sideline. The SJ is fifteen yards past the line of scrimmage. When receivers and defensive backs go through his area he will watch for infractions.
This may mean the side judge will be monitoring multiple receivers and defensive backs at one time.
Watching The Boundary
The SJ is also responsible for watching his nearest sideline. This official will call if players have stepped out of bounds at any point during the play.
They are also responsible for determining if a pass was caught in bounds. This job is given to the down judge for shorter passes. But once the players are ten or so yards from the line of scrimmage the side judge will make the call.
Counting Defensive Players
This official also has the responsibility of counting the number of defensive players on the field. On each non-special teams plays the side judge and the field judge count the defensive players on the field.
If either official notices there are too many players then a penalty flag will be thrown.
Once the side judge determines it is a passing play he will watch the wide receiver lined up on his sideline. The official will watch this receiver run his route to make sure no defensive interference occurs.
If the ball is thrown towards his location on the field the side judge will call whether or not the pass was completed.
Additionally, if the ball is caught near the sideline the SJ will call whether or not the player caught the ball before going out of bounds.
If there is illegal contact between the receivers or defensive backs at any point throughout the route or during the catch the field judge will call a penalty.
This official is responsible for watching all the receivers and cornerbacks in his area to ensure no penalties go unnoticed.
On running downs the SJ will first turn his attention towards the nearest receiver. He will watch receivers in his area block defensive backs to determine if it is being done legally.
The side judge will mainly be looking for holds or illegal blocks by the receivers.
If the ball carrier runs into the SJs area he will be responsible for marking whether or not the ball carrier went out of bounds
Side judges also have a number of responsibilities on special teams.
On the kickoff, this official is responsible for making sure the receiving team is lined up properly. He will line up behind the receiving team on these plays in order to view that all players are in the proper positions.
On punts this official lines up seven to ten yards behind the punt returner on the sideline. Once the punt occurs he will watch the blocks throughout the play to make sure they are all legal.
Crackback blocks and holding are calls that are often made by the Side judge on these plays.
On field goals and extra points this official will line up seven yards into the defensive backfield. He will then stand in the middle of the field to get a good view of the long snapper.
This official will be looking to illegal snap infractions and illegal blocks on these plays.