Blandino: NFL exploring whether to add eighth official

Two days after Cam Newton spoke to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about the lack of late-hit penalties he has drawn, the NFL's head of officiating says the league is exploring whether it should add an eighth official in an effort aimed at improving quarterback safety.

Speaking on ProFootballTalk Live on Thursday, Dean Blandino, the NFL senior vice president of officiating, said adding an eighth official could potentially "alleviate some of those other responsibilities for the referee and allow the referee to focus more on the quarterback."

Under the current seven-official system, Blandino explained there is a "transitional period" for the referee watching the quarterback on passing plays once he becomes under threat for a hit. Blandino said there's a chance during his brief period that the officiating crew "may miss a hit on the quarterback." Ultimately, the move to eight officials would allow the referee to determine more readily if a penalty involving the quarterback occurs.

"You have seven officials and you have 22 players so you can't just focus on one area," Blandino said. "We have to look at several areas ... (The referee is) looking right through and he can see the left tackle and he can also for the most part see the quarterback in that same line of vision, so he doesn't have to turn his head. He should be able to see everything in his line of sight but that's something that we're looking at."

Blandino also said the possibility to expand instant replay to cover potential roughing the passer penalties has "been discussed at length" and remains "a definite possibility."

On Tuesday, Blandino told NFL Network's Dan Hellie that the league has also looked into the possibility of creating more full-time opportunities for game officials.