Talk:American football rules

Page contents not supported in other languages.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
WikiProject iconUnited States Start‑class Low‑importance
WikiProject iconThis article is within the scope of WikiProject United States, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of topics relating to the United States of America on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the ongoing discussions.
StartThis article has been rated as Start-class on Wikipedia's content assessment scale.
 Low This article has been rated as Low-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject iconAmerican football Start‑class
WikiProject iconThis article is within the scope of WikiProject American football, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of American football on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
StartThis article has been rated as Start-class on Wikipedia's content assessment scale.
 ??? This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.

Time of Play[edit]

In many movies and television shows where a football game is played, they often contain a shot where the "good" team wins just as time is running out. Is this just a creation of movie/TV execs to copy the drama of a basketball buzzer beater, or is this a rule in high school, college, or pro football?

It sometimes does happen. When the clock expires, the quarter continues until the end of the current play. --Locarno 13:50, 9 May 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
: That's what I thought, but the way most shows depict it, the player scores just before the time runs out. I wasn't sure if it was trying to match the drama of a basketball "buzzer beater" where the period ends as soon as the clock reaches zero or if it was an obscure rule from NCAA or high school football.
One thing, the movies usually show a dramatic long touchdown for the buzzer-beater win. In the games, it's much more common for it to be a last-second field goal. Another little wrinkle, the game (and I think a half) can't end on a defensive penalty so the offense is awarded an untimed down if the clock has expired but there has been a foul called.
Jamesfett (talk) 07:17, 22 November 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It's also a Hollywood interpretation of a real bias. For the most famous game-winning plays in the NFL, the iconic game-winning event is actually remembered by fans and the media as being the final play, even though for most such plays, there's still time on the clock, and there is still an anti-climactic kickoff or another possession or a kneel-down after that. (See "Ice Bowl", "The Drive" and Super Bowl XLII for examples) WallyCuddeford (talk) 06:43, 8 February 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]


I'd really appreciate someone familiar with the sport explaining to me the roles of players, and the manner in which it is legitimate to block players?

Allowed blocking is by shoving the opposing player in the front or the sides with your hands to the inside of their body. It's perfectly acceptable to knock them to the ground or whatever, or to run into them or dive at their legs to trip them up, as long as you don't lead the block with your helmet.

Or grab with the hands, or chop block, or crack-back block. The first is holding and the second two are safety rules (a chop block is a double-team block--i.e. two blockers on one defender, with one deliberately delaying his block until the defender is already engaged by a blocker, then chopping him below the thighs/knees) (a crack-back is a block by an offensive player in motion toward the free-blocking zone at the snap then hits his target below the knees--college rules--or from behind inside the free-blocking zone). Confusing, huh?--Buckboard 06:49, 15 April 2006 (UTC)

One note note the free-blocking zone. It disintegrates as soon as the ball leaves the zone. And the free-blocking zone only applies to players in the zone at the snap and on the line of scrimmage. Since a motion man cannot legally be in motion on the line of scrimmage, the crack-back as described is illegal in more than one way. A more general description of a crack-back is any block back towards the line of scrimmage. If from above the waist and from the front it is legal. If below the waist or from behind, it is illegal in all codes. Illegal in NCAA/NFL because it is below the waist back towards the ball, illegal in NFHS because it is below the waist..-- 00:30, 23 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Quarterback: Main role is to pass the ball to a receiver or hand the ball off to a running back. They may also run the ball themselves. Usually very tall (6 feet 2 inches +), must have very good upper body strength. (Also, the "field general"--usually calls the type of play or relays it from the coach, vocally calls out the signals to initiate the play)
Halfback/Runningback: Main role is to receive a handoff or pitch from the quarterback and then run the ball, but they may also run forward and receive forward passes. Usually 5 feet 10 inches to about 6 feet tall, must be very fast and agile. (The farther up the levels of play one goes---pop warner/peewee; middle school; high school; college; pro---the larger the requirement in size to be effective. 5-10 is considered OK for high school, but small for pro)
Fullback: Main role is to provide blocks for other players, but they may also receive handoffs or passes. They are usually tall and fairly heavy, but they must also be reasonably fast.
Wide Receiver: Main role is to catch passes, but they may also receive a handoff or pitch and run with it. They are often the fastest offensive players, and most wide receivers are at least 6 feet tall. (ditto here regarding size--6-00 is tall for a high school receiver)
Tight End: They have two main roles, to block and to catch passes. They line up next to the tackle (outermost offensive linemen). They are usually very strong and tall, and must be reasonably fast (some tight ends are extremely quick). (The relevance of the tight end as a receiver increases in importance the higher the level one goes)
Center: Their role is to snap the ball to the quarterback and then block. They are not eligible receivers. Must be very strong and large.
Offensive Guards/Tackles: They block. They are not eligible receivers. Must be very strong and large. (there are "tackle eligible" plays but they are considered trick plays and usu. have special rules governing their use)
Defense: (all defensive players may intercept passes from the quarterback/other offensive players)
Defensive Tackles/Ends: Their main role is to rush the quarterback (on passing plays) and stop the run. They must be reasonably fast, but also large (especially for defensive tackles, who normally weigh 290-320 lbs).
Linebackers: They rush the quarterback (3d ranked responsibility) and stop the run (1st ranked responsibility, LBs are gap-fillers), as well as defend against passes (2nd ranked responsibility). They are usually the ones that cover tight ends. Usually about as fast as tight ends, but not as tall.
Cornerbacks: Their main role is to cover wide receivers. Usually 5 feet 10 inches to about 6 feet tall. Usually the fastest defensive players.
Free Safety: Their main role is to cover all receivers, but sometimes provide run coverage. Between a cornerback and linebacker in physical attributes, but closer to a cornerback.
Strong Safety: Their main role is to provide extra run coverage (assist linebackers/linemen), but they also assist in pass coverage. Between a cornerback and linebacker in physical attributes, but closer to a linebacker. (in size, not speed)
This sounds like something you might want to put into an actual article, with some elaboration. Aerion//talk 04:55, 17 July 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]
In many cases, I'm attempting to place a lot of this into articles in Category:American football positions, FYI. — Lomn | Talk / RfC 20:16, 8 September 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I added the parentheticals, assuming an audience that knows little or nothing. Also to illustrate that "some elaboration" may become quite involved.--Buckboard 07:14, 15 April 2006 (UTC)

Free kick after safety[edit]

There's a discrepancy here between the Free Kick secion and the Safety section, regarding the free kick after a safety in the NFL. Must it be a punt in the NFL (as it says in the Safety section), or may it be a place kick (as it says in the Free Kick section)? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:32, 15 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I noticed that too and I can't find any evidence to support the "punt only" statement. The NFL rules posted here[1] state that "On a safety kick, the team scored upon puts ball in play by a punt, dropkick, or placekick without tee." So if no one comes up with any evidence to the contrary I'll change that. Gr8white 18:24, 22 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I can confirm that in all levels of play (NFHS, NCAA, and NFL) any type of kick is allowed for the free kick after safety. --Coz 20:50, 22 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The only caveat to "any type" that is if it is a placekick, it cannot be with a tee. Jamesfett (talk) 07:20, 22 November 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Again, varying by level. A tee is allowed in NFHS. —C.Fred (talk) 02:24, 23 November 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Drop Kicks[edit]

We need to include a section on Drop Kicks. Although they are very rare nowadays, drop kicks were once an important part of the game. Doug Flutie also recently made history by scoring a drop kick and I feel that because of their historical importance, if for nothing else, we should include them in the rule book. AmbExThErMal

Penalty section suggestion[edit]

Copy/pasting this here, because it was erroneously placed on the article page by Aerion//talk 04:46, 21 July 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The best way to do this, for both offense and defense, is in relation to the hand signals used by referrees to indicate the penalty, which are always made in case mikes fail, and indicate the general category to which each belongs (what I came here to find; you people suck.) Example: the motion listed below under false start is virutally identical to the traveling call in basketball, however, this motion is also made in cases of illegal formation, illegal motion, and illegal shift, which, if I'm not mistaken is technically also an illegal motion. These sub-categories can be bewildering, hence my need for a reference.

False start and Illegal procedure are identical. In fact, it used to be "Illegal procedure: false start". I'm guessing that it was just shortened for convenience. Illegal formation is also illegal procedure. Illegal motion and Illegal shift are distinctly different from Illegal procedure. —Wrathchild (talk) 18:00, 9 November 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
And in general you can tell one from the other based on if the ref blows the play dead or not. In the case of false start, they blow it dead immediately, however, usually for illegal formations, they will allow the play to continue in order to give the defense the option of declining the penalty. Also, which penalty is involved can be derived by which of the officials throws the flag. A false start will signaled by one of the linemen to either side of the line of scrimmage, however and illegal formation will be signaled by someone behind the formation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Bkporter12 (talkcontribs) 17:28, 7 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Not necessarily true. In most cases, the illegal formation will be called by the wing officials—who are looking along the line of scrimmage and can see whether there are seven men on the line or not (and have the best view for borderline on-/off-the-line calls). The referee or umpire may spot five in the backfield and flag the illegal formation (after a quick recount to make sure there aren't 12 men on the field), but primary responsibility for the call is with the linesman and line judge. —C.Fred (talk) 18:09, 7 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Suggestion: identify groups of penalties by the largest designation, indicated by the hand signal (i.e. delay of game is indicated by the official raising his hand above the side of his head then bringing it down flat atop his head, which I believe is a Dead ball foul) proceeding thence through individual subcategories and their members (i.e. Illegal procedure, with description of signal, including Illegal motion, and among its members Illegal shift.)

The Delay of game signal is the folding of the arms in front. Placing the hand on top of the head is Ineligible receiver downfield. —Wrathchild (talk) 18:00, 9 November 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I concur the penalties could be grouped in a more logical fashion. Snap infraction is also missing. Btyner 20:11, 22 September 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

How about penalty enforcements for loose ball plays and running plays, and the All-But-One principal? Especially in light of the differences between NFL, NCAA, and NFHS, especially for penalties behind the previous line of scrimmage. Many people watch high school games and wonder why holding is a spot foul always, and a spot foul sometimes in NFL/NCAA.-- 00:22, 23 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This section is destined to be incomplete[edit]

I think this article is destined to be partially incomplete. The full rule book is rather large, but even so, it is rather inomplete right now. As I have time I can add more, but it's going to take a long time.

That's okay, as long as at some level it is complete in describing the most basic rules of the game. We can get more detailed as time goes on. Ask yourself, "What would a European or an Asian need to learn the rules of the game?" or "What would a non-sports fan need to learn the rules of the game?" For example, there's no sense describing instant replay if the article doesn't make clear the system of first through fourth downs. --[[User:P--Locarno 22:49, 4 November 2005 (UTC)Szalapski|Locarno]] 14:19, 7 October 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

What happens if there is a player running for a touchdown and an opponenet comes off of the sideline to tackle him? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:24, 3 January 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Referee's discretion. It falls under the general heading of palpably unfair acts. The referee can enforce any penalty he deems appropriate, which would likely be to award a touchdown. —C.Fred (talk) 07:11, 3 January 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Oddly enough, that exact situation occurred in the 1954 Cotton Bowl between Alabama and Rice. Rice player was running down the sideline and an Alabama player came off the bench and tackled him on the 42 yard line. Referee signaled touchdown even though the ball never actually made it to the endzone. Even though this has only happened once (in major college and pro football), the general rule is as mentioned above: it would be up to the ref. I can imagine a situation where it would be plausible that someone might be able to catch the runner and the person on the sideline merely interfered with him allowing other players to catch up. In that instance, I can imagine a 15 yard unsportsmanlike or illegal participation penalty being enforced as opposed to an automatic touchdown.Bkporter12 (talk) 17:33, 7 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]


"(Because the referee is also the only person who can stop a play in progress, he is in practice the only official who can flag for penalties that stop a play, such as encroachment.)"

Is this really true? It seems that on false starts and encroachments, several officials throw the flag and several officials blow the whistle. Also, on ordinary plays, it seems that a back judge or field judge would blow the whistle to signal, for example, down by stopped forward progress or other ends of plays.

Whether or not it's "true"--it's obscure and unimportant. No one has ever seen a controversary or a ruling or anything where the official throwing a flag had the right or not to call it. More importantly, because it does occur all the time, all the sections on ballcarriers being down and plays ending have ignored the role of the official's whistle. Play continues until the whistle blows. Play ends once the whistle blows--even if "inadvertant."--Buckboard 06:34, 15 April 2006 (UTC)

The play continues until it is over; the official's whistle only announces to all the players that the play is over. If the whistle ends the play, it is an "inadvertent whistle," and the team in possession has some options (unless it's the NFL). And the guilty official has to buy the rest of the crew dinner. :) As for the referee being the only person with certain privileges, historically, he was the only person who could signal a touchdown, but that's been changed for at least 30 years, probably longer. —C.Fred (talk) 22:23, 30 May 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Drop kick[edit]

The "Field goal (3 points)" section mentions that the ball "must first be snapped to a placeholder". Really? I believe a field goal may be drop kicked. --Rich r 21:14, 1 January 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It can -- but it is very rare during the last 50 years. I have been watching football since 1960 and I have never seen one. It was common during the early years.... Paulmeisel 22:59, 1 January 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well, the things you miss while working on Wikipedia. Yesterday afternoon Doug Flutie drop kicked an extra point for the Patriots. According to Chris Berman's ESPN broadcast it was the first drop kick in the NFL since 1941 (by Ray "Scooter" McLain) -- the last drop kick for a field goal was in 1937 by Earl "Dutch" Clark.

Reviewed plays[edit]

When a play is reviewed by a referee and he rules that the down is to be replayed, the clock must be set back to show the time of the original ball snap. Musicwriter 16:45, 5 January 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Comparison article?[edit]

I'm thinking that a split-off may make sense, to turn this into a more generalized discussion of rules, and set up a Comparison of American football rules article. I'm picturing basically two tables: the first for general differences in rules, such as length of game, overtime, goalpost width, hashmark distance; and one specifically for penalty enforcement differences (e.g. pass interference is 15 in HS, 15 or spot in college, and spot in NFL). By way of comparison, see Comparison of baseball and softball. Anybody else agree? —C.Fred (talk) 16:14, 12 August 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Please add referee hand signal images[edit]

Please add referee hand signal images, or links to such, thanks. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Marycontrary (talkcontribs) 21:17, 10 September 2006 (UTC).Reply[reply]

The problem is, most of the charts of signals are copyrighted. I'm sure that either the Federation has copyright to the chart in my rulebook or licenses it and has permission to print it. So that rules out an inline image. As for links, I doubt they'd be that far down the tree from the NFL rules link, so they should be easy to find. —C.Fred (talk) 22:37, 10 September 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Here's a chart of the NCAA official football signals (PDF). Here's from the NFL. Not sure about copyright issues; I'm sure they are copyrighted. I don't know how much can be used under "fair use". However, if someone were to do something like was done here and release it under a CC license that would be great. —Wrathchild (talk) 18:10, 9 November 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Dead Ball By Ref[edit]

A play can also be blown dead by the ref if a penalty occures such as offsides of lined up in the neutral zone DJW2tone 14:56, 2 October 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Categorically false. The play is allowed to continue in both of those situations—except in HS or when a defender is unabated to the quarterback, and then the play is not allowed to begin. The only foul, off the top of my head, that kills a play is an illegal kick in NCAA. —C.Fred (talk) 02:50, 3 October 20
A play is stoped on false start or offsides if a defender is unimpeded to the quarterback in the nfl as well as Maddens famouse 4 4 4 defense.DJW2tone 12:21, 4 October 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No; the play never begins on a false start. For offsides, the play is allowed to continue; for encroachment, the play is not allowed to begin. Twelve men on the field, if detected before the snap, prevents the play from starting; after the snap, the play is allowed to continue. —C.Fred (talk) 02:35, 5 October 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I did cover the one situation where the official's whistle kills the play. Though what I meant to type was: The nearest official typically blows his whistle after the ball becomes dead to alert the players that the play is over. If the ball is alive and the official sounds an inadvertent whistle, then the ball becomes dead at the point when the whistle sounds. <!--That official then buys dinner for the rest of the crew after the game.-->C.Fred (talk) 23:40, 24 October 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

In NFHS, there is no offsides penalty. There is only encroachment. Encroachment is a dead ball foul, that is, the ball remains dead. Typically officials wait until the snap is imminent, and then "throw and blow." In NCAA/NFL, offsides is a live ball foul at the snap, unless there is an unabated path to the quarterback. There is no "unabated" rule in NFHS. Also, no foul stops a play, even an illegal kick. In the unabated case, there never was a play, and is enforced as a dead ball foul.-- 15:19, 23 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Some illegal kicks do cause the ball become dead in NCAA. "A return kick is an illegal kick and a live-ball foul that causes the ball to become dead" (6-3-10-b). "A scrimmage kick beyond the neutral zone is a live-ball foul that causes the ball to become dead" (6-3-10-c). —C.Fred (talk) 23:24, 23 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Ok. That is true for NCAA. I don't know about NFL. But in NFHS, "No foul causes a live ball to become dead" as per 2-16-4.-- 06:38, 24 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, that's a fundamental for Federation. It doesn't apply to NCAA, though, and that was the point of my statement: in the three codes combined, the only foul I know of that can cause the ball to become dead is an illegal kick and only in the NCAA code (but not in Fed and not, to the best of my knowledge, in NFL). —C.Fred (talk) 21:58, 25 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
My bad. When I posted the part about the "no foul stops a play" I assumed that the Fed principle applied to NCAA as well. And I somehow got distracted trying to prove my point, rather than concede you yours. Sorry about that.-- 00:34, 26 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Adding a new section[edit]

How about a section that depicts ways in which possession of the ball is legally changed? Here's a list that I found of all the legal ways:

1) When the offense does not advance 10 yards in 4 downs
2) After points are scored
3) The end of the first half
4) When defense intercepts the ball
5) When a kicked ball lands out of bounds
6) When a kicked ball is caught
7) When a punted ball stops

How about it? Give it some thought. And I agree that this section is doomed to remain incomplete. mikecucuk 18:25, 3 October 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Well, #2 is not true—none of the three forms of scoring change team possession (unless the scored-upon team elects to kick off after a touchdown). #3 effectively ends a possession but does not turn the ball over. I think it is a completeable list, though:

  1. The offense does not advance 10 yards in 4 downs or does not score off a first-and-goal situation (turnover on downs).
  2. The offense commits a penalty on fourth down behind the line-to-gain which includes a loss of down.
  3. The defense intercepts a pass.
  4. The defense recovers a fumble.
  5. The receiving team catches or recovers a kick.
  6. A kick goes out of bounds.
  7. A kick is declared dead in the end zone (touchback).
  8. A kick ends in the field of play unplayed by either team (your #7).
  9. In a Kansas plan overtime, a field goal or safety is scored, or the point-after-touchdown is completed (by the team with possession first in the overtime).

I can't think of any other situation where a change of possession occurs. However, I think these situations are covered in the text. —C.Fred (talk) 02:39, 4 October 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Change of a half is not a change of possession. The team that lost the coin toss at the beginning of the game chooses whether they want to receive or kick at the start of the second half. Rarely (usually when there's a strong wind) the team will choose to kick. But, really, no one has "possession" at the start of the game or half, so it's not really a "change" anyway. —Wrathchild (talk) 18:13, 9 November 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

rules question--kicks[edit]

Under "plays from scrimmage," a recent change was "the ball is dead when...a kicked ball comes to rest". I thought that field goal attempts that come to rest on the ground are still alive and won't be whistled dead? Thus this should be reverted to "punted ball comes to rest"? Not sure. --Locarno 13:58, 25 October 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

No, it's the same principle for any kick. The text "and no player is attempting to play it" should probably be added, but generally, if a player wants to play the ball, he's going to do it before it comes completely to rest. —C.Fred (talk) 21:53, 25 October 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This came into play in overtime of the 1999 Georgia Tech vs Georgia game. Georgia got the ball first and were intercepted in the endzone allowing Georgia Tech the ability to win the game with a field goal. Tech coach George O'Leary called the field goal attempt on 3rd down, but Georgia blocked that attempt. The Georgia players started running off the field in celebration, but the Tech kick holder (and Quarterback) realized the ball was not dead and went and fell on the ball. Since the kick attempt had been on 3rd down, Tech attempted the field goal again, this time making it and winning the game 51-48.Bkporter12 (talk) 17:45, 7 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Number of players[edit]

I believe that the rule is that there can be no more than 11 players on the field at the start of the play. I've never seen a team penalized for having 10 players on the field. —Wrathchild (talk) 17:50, 9 November 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

College used to require exactly 11. In one case, a team bandaged a man up and put him in the back of the end zone so they had 11 on the field. Currently, as a practical matter, it's not required at any level. The NFL rule says it best: teams shall be 11 players each, but there is no penalty for fewer than 11 players on the field at the snap. (Although the offense must have at least 8....) —C.Fred (talk) 01:16, 10 November 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I stand corrected. Federation requires a team to begin the game with 11 players, but they can play with fewer after that point. I can't find similar text in the NFL rulebook (though as a practical matter, an NFL team won't be that strapped for players), and I don't have access to NCAA. —C.Fred (talk) 02:33, 12 November 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Does the offense actually have to have 8? I know seven are required to be on the line, but is it required that there be a player in the backfield?--RLent 15:09, 26 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
In Fed, definitely. Otherwise, once the team gets possession, they enter an unbreakable cycle of penalties for planned loose-ball plays ("fumblerooskis"), since there's no back to receive the snap. There's not specific coverage like there is with basketball, though. (There, a team can continue to play with one player if they have a reasonable chance of winning (i.e. are protecting a lead late when everybody fouls out). If the game's unwinnable by the team with one player, it's called.) —C.Fred (talk) 16:45, 26 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, NCAA does have to have at least 8 (on offense). Rules say you have to have 7 on the line, and the ball has to be snapped to someone behind the line. Therefore, the minimum is 8. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Bkporter12 (talkcontribs) 17:48, 7 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Downed player[edit]

...any part of his body other than the hands, forearms, or feet touches the ground...

How, pray tell, does one touch one's forearm to the ground without touching one's elbow, unless one's arm is broken? An elbow counts for downing.

From the 2006 NCAA rulebook, rule 4-1-3:

When any part of the runner’s body, except his hand or foot, touches the ground or when the runner is tackled or otherwise falls and loses possession of the ball as he contacts the ground with any part of his body, except his hand or foot.

This section should just say "hands or feet". —Wrathchild (talk) 18:36, 9 November 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the NFL rules different - i.e. the player has to be physically TOUCHED while he's down to consider a player down? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 23:43, 13 November 2006 (UTC).Reply[reply]
True, and that's noted in the description of the rule. —C.Fred (talk) 02:02, 14 November 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Actually, the player simply has to be deemed "down by contact" and does not have to be physically touched while on the ground. i.e, if i were to push the ball carrier and he were to fall down it would still be a down, even though i only pushed him and did not actually fall on him. The rule, years ago, actually did require the player to be physically touched by the defending team while on the ground, but this rule was removed because it caused too many injuries.--Marqmike2 22:55, 1 January 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

With tee, or without tee. Kickoffs section[edit]

I noticed that the kickoff description read as follows: "The ball is placed on a tee (or held) at the kicking team's 30 yard line (35 yard line in college and 40 for high school)..."

It might be useful to describe exactly when the ball may be held instead of being placed on a tee. I do believe that if the ball falls off the tee due to wind three times (i'm not positive if its three) then the player is then able to have someone hold it. I'm not positive though. --Marqmike2 22:31, 1 January 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

A holder is always allowed, but obviously only required if the ball won't stay on the tee.

Yes, it can be held at any time. This is undesirable for the kicking team though, as it hinders the ability of one member of the kicking team (the player made to hold the kick) to get downfield. -- 01:03, 2 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Offensive facemask?[edit]

"Note: it is also a foul for an offensive player to touch an opponent's face mask, including when the runner stiff-arms a defensive player."

Can anyone confirm that to be true? I was under the impression that grabbing the face mask is not a foul for an offensive ball carrier. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:13, 15 September 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The NCAA says that no player may grasp the face mask, but the open hand may be used on the mask (9-1-2-s). Since a properly executed stiff-arm is conducted with the open hand, this will not be a foul. Federation is worded similarly (helmet contact was a point of emphasis this year, and the situation was discussed in our training clinics). NFL may be more liberal, but I don't have the book handy. —C.Fred (talk) 12:08, 15 September 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Free Kick after Fair Catch[edit]

As mentioned, there is a little known rule that a free-kick is allowed after a fair catch, or awarded fair-catch. A section about this, including that the free-kick, if it goes through the uprights, scores. I think a couple of years ago this occurred in an NFL game (See

Also, the free-kick option may be retained if a penalty is accepted on a play from scrimmage after a free-kick. For example, A fair catches at the A40. A elects to snap. On the play, B commit pass interference and A accepts. A still retains the free-kick option.-- 00:34, 23 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Did anyone ever realize that there are a large number of fouls that are listed under offensive or defensive fouls that can be committed by either team? Such as: Encroachment, all of the illegal blocking fouls, holding, tripping, spearing, forward pass interference...I am sure I missed a few also. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Smokedadro (talkcontribs) 04:35, 29 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It's an arbirtrary break-out. I didn't see much gained by the article to change it, though it is handy with, say, the differential enforcement for pass interference. —C.Fred (talk) 01:27, 30 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Can't say that encroachment can be an offensive foul. It's when a defensive player crosses the neutral zone and makes contact with an offensive player or continues unabated to the quarterback. There is no offensive equivalent. Offsides, yes, neutral zone infractions, yes, but encroachment seems pure defense. (Any "encroaching" offensive player would be called for false start, right?) Jamesfett (talk) 07:30, 22 November 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Not true. If a wideout lines up in an "offside" position but does not simulate motion at the snap, he hasn't false-started, but he has encroached. —C.Fred (talk) 02:30, 23 November 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Coin Toss[edit]

I changed a paragraph under coin toss, because that paragraph makes no sense. No one knows if a teams prefers to receive it or kick it. Every team is different and therefore, that is a biased statement.--Kmbball45 (talk) 18:38, 26 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

On the one hand, generally accepted strategy is that choosing to kick places a team at a disadvantage. The problem is, I don't have a citation to back that up, so I can't call it a verifiable fact. I suspect that there's a coaching guide out there somewhere with either a statement about the strategic disadvantage to choosing to kick or statistics about how infrequently the option is chosen. —C.Fred (talk) 23:24, 26 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Sacking the punter[edit]

OK, I'm quite sure about roughing the kicker after the ball was kicked, but what if the kicker was sacked before he can even get the ball off the foot? Does that also count as running into or roughing the kicker?TimHowardII (talk) 08:45, 21 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • Nope, that would be a tackle, because he isn't a kicker until he kicks the ball. —C.Fred (talk) 13:00, 21 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Nope, that's called a fumble. :) Bkporter12 (talk) 17:51, 7 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Tinted shields[edit]

Are you allowed to where a dark visor? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 22:36, 3 September 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It depends. I'm pretty sure the answer is yes for NFL and NCAA, though I'm not sure what restrictions apply (league approval, tint level, medical necessity, etc.).
The general rule for high school is no. That may vary by state, e.g., Georgia allows it with approval by the state office for a legitimate medical need. —C.Fred (talk) 22:43, 3 September 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

th e "tuck" rule[edit]

i witnessed a rule being enforced this weekend in the CARDINALS VS. COWBOYS game. I would love for someone to explain this. A quarterback is trying to throw the football for a pass, and at the last moment, "tucks" it back in, understanding He's about to get sacked in the end zone.He's smothered at the one yard line, fumbles the ball into the end zone, and the opposing team recovers the ball in their end zone. result: touchdown for the defense!!!

never happened. the judges invoked a new rule concerning a "tuck" rule that resulted in the possesing team recieving a first & ten at the ten yard line.

i must be on drugs!!! anybody care to explain this "new rule"????????

04:09, 13 October 2008 (UTC)04:09, 13 October 2008 (UTC)04:09, 13 October 2008 (UTC) (talk)

This is as attempt to define by rule when exactly a QB is "passing" and when he isn't. I think it is result of a play a year or 2 ago when there was a question on whether a particular play should have been ruled that the QB's arm was in forward motion, and hence the result was an incomplete pass, or whether he was pulling the ball down and "tucking" it away, and hence should be a fumble. I think the idea is to make it such that the ref doesn't have to try to read the QB's mind as to what his intent was.Wschart (talk) 23:56, 27 October 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Offside vs. Encroachment[edit]

Could a knowledgeable editor please add to both the "offside" and "encroachment" sections an explanation of when exactly each of these penalties would be called? Tempshill (talk) 18:01, 24 November 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Illegal motion[edit]

Currently, illegal motion only says that it is when "a player in motion is moving forward at the time of the snap". But shouldn't it also include two (or more) players in motion at the same time prior to snap? Jason Quinn (talk) 18:57, 26 December 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Actually illegal shift currently says that it includes two players in motion but I thought illegal shift refers to if players weren't set long enough prior to snap? Not an expert here, so I'll defer. Jason Quinn (talk) 19:01, 26 December 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Illegal shift refers to all 11 players not being properly set before the snap. That included a player stopping, but not for a full second, or to two or more players moving - shifting - at the time of the snap. If two people are moving at the same time, it's a shift. Strictly speaking, illegal motion refers to a player (and by definition, only one) in motion illegally - which 99% of the time will be moving forward at the snap. (The other 1% is a player starting from the line who isn't far enough back at the time of the snap, which is a pretty rare occurrence.)
I don't have ready access to my NCAA or NFL rulebooks right now for the nuances in the wording of their rules, but that's the NFHS distinction between illegal shift and illegal motion. —C.Fred (talk) 00:23, 27 December 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Also, if two or more people are in motion (defined to be a shift), then all 11 players must come to a full stop for 1 full second before the snap. So if two players are in motion (a shift), then one of them stops for a full second (but the other does not) before the snap, it would be illegal shift because all 11 players are not still for 1 full second before the snap. It's the only time I can think of with an illegal shift called with only 1 player in motion. Bkporter12 (talk) 17:58, 7 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Good point. The shift hasn't ended until all 11 players reset, so even though he think he's in motion, he's not: he's still shifting. —C.Fred (talk) 18:02, 7 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Possession of ball at end of each quarter[edit]

The article does not make it clear, and it should make it clear, who has possession of the ball at the end of each quarter, and where the ball starts out at the beginning of each quarter. —Lowellian (reply) 21:05, 2 January 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Well, at the start of the 2nd and 4th quarters, whoever ended with the ball keeps it under the same circumstances they had it at the end of the last quarter. The game starts and the 3rd quarter begin with kickoffs. Bkporter12 (talk) 18:00, 7 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Actually they don't keep the ball under the same circumstance - there is one change. At the end of the 1st and 3rd quarters, the teams "Switch sides" meaning that if Team A was defending the North Endzone and trying to score in the South Endzone, at the end of the quarter they will switch, and begin defending the South Endzone. This is a very relevant issue in stadiums that are outdoors, where wind is a factor in the game. (talk) 16:59, 15 October 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
True. However, the same team retains possession at the same relative field position. If it was second and 7 for Team A on their own 23 yard line at the end of the first quarter, the ball will be moved to the other 23 and the chains will be flipped around. It will still be Team A's ball, second and 7 on their own 23; they'll just be going the other direction on the field. —C.Fred (talk) 18:28, 15 October 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Downed Player: Sack[edit]

I added stuff here, feel free to remove if it doesn't make sense...but this happened in tonight's (1/4/2009) Eagles v. Vikings game and I thought i deserved some merit in Wikipedia. Thanks! --Scottymoze (talk) 23:58, 4 January 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Is the number of yards that can be gained in one 'down' (or four downs) unlimited, or can it be no more than ten yards? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Drstk (talkcontribs) 22:37, 22 February 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It's unlimited. The ten yards is what "resets" the next down back to first down. —C.Fred (talk) 22:50, 22 February 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well, technically it's limited to 100 (or 99 yards depending on record keeping rules) because that's the limit of the field. Rreagan007 (talk) 00:17, 14 January 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No, it's unlimited. It's possible that a player runs for 99 yards, then fumbles, has an opposing player pick it up and run the other way for 99 yards, who then fumbles, and has a player from the original team pick it up and run for 99 yards. Repeat as many times as you'd like. The maximum net gain on a play is limited to 99 yards, but the number of yards a team can gain on a single play is unlimited. Bkporter12 (talk) 18:03, 7 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yeah well I think there is a limit, because people do not live forever. It is a ridiculous scenario anyways, but even if you want to use the argument that its "possible" that the teams will run to the goaline and fumble over and over for an eternity, then many other issues arise. Such as the scheduling for next weeks game, the off-season, and of course the fact that humans are mortal, and that during a game, a team would not be allowed to add players to the roster, so eventually all the active players would die, and the game would end. So there is a limit. What is the limit? 99 yards. (or 100 depending on the rules of the league). (talk) 17:04, 15 October 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Scores in a tie game[edit]

I checked the ESPN, USA Today, and Washington Post summaries for Sunday's Bengals–Redskins game. All of them refer to the result as a "27–27 tie"; none of them use the phrase "27–all". In keeping with WP:ENGVAR, then, should this article not maintain American usage and report the score as 27–27? —C.Fred (talk) 22:37, 31 October 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

External links modified[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just modified one external link on American football rules. Please take a moment to review my edit. If you have any questions, or need the bot to ignore the links, or the page altogether, please visit this simple FaQ for additional information. I made the following changes:

When you have finished reviewing my changes, you may follow the instructions on the template below to fix any issues with the URLs.

This message was posted before February 2018. After February 2018, "External links modified" talk page sections are no longer generated or monitored by InternetArchiveBot. No special action is required regarding these talk page notices, other than regular verification using the archive tool instructions below. Editors have permission to delete these "External links modified" talk page sections if they want to de-clutter talk pages, but see the RfC before doing mass systematic removals. This message is updated dynamically through the template {{source check}} (last update: 18 January 2022).

  • If you have discovered URLs which were erroneously considered dead by the bot, you can report them with this tool.
  • If you found an error with any archives or the URLs themselves, you can fix them with this tool.

Cheers.—InternetArchiveBot (Report bug) 22:11, 3 July 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

External links modified[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just modified one external link on American football rules. Please take a moment to review my edit. If you have any questions, or need the bot to ignore the links, or the page altogether, please visit this simple FaQ for additional information. I made the following changes:

When you have finished reviewing my changes, you may follow the instructions on the template below to fix any issues with the URLs.

This message was posted before February 2018. After February 2018, "External links modified" talk page sections are no longer generated or monitored by InternetArchiveBot. No special action is required regarding these talk page notices, other than regular verification using the archive tool instructions below. Editors have permission to delete these "External links modified" talk page sections if they want to de-clutter talk pages, but see the RfC before doing mass systematic removals. This message is updated dynamically through the template {{source check}} (last update: 18 January 2022).

  • If you have discovered URLs which were erroneously considered dead by the bot, you can report them with this tool.
  • If you found an error with any archives or the URLs themselves, you can fix them with this tool.

Cheers.—InternetArchiveBot (Report bug) 10:09, 26 December 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The Ball Itself[edit]

I went to this page to find the weight of a football and...nothing! Aren't the weight, size, and shape of a US football prescribed by rules? And these rules vary for professional and collegiate play, both known as "American Football", true? Martindo (talk) 09:54, 28 October 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Martindo: None of the required equipment—the ball, helmets, pads, etc.—is covered in this article. Ball (gridiron football) has the specifications for an NFL ball, but not for NCAA or Federation (high school) balls. —C.Fred (talk) 16:22, 28 October 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]