Getting Into the Game
Preparing players of all ages for success at football’s highest level.
Protecting the integrity of the greatest game.
It's our responsibility to strengthen the sport.
Ensuring a consistent and fair game that is decided on the field, by the players.
Ensuring that players conduct themselves in a way that honors the sport and respects the game.
Knees Bent. Pads Down. Head Up.
The NFL is proud of the HBCU professional football legacy.
Honoring the league’s commitment to serve the communities where the game is played.
Meet the people behind NFL Operations.
Learn about the people, the jobs and the technology that deliver the best game possible to NFL fans across the U.S. and around the world.
Countdown to kickoff: how NFL games happen.
In the NFL, balancing technology with tradition.
How television has changed the game.
Upon further review…
It takes hundreds of computers and four NFL executives to create the NFL’s 256-game masterpiece.
Learn how NFL players have changed over time, how they’re developed and drafted and how the league works with them after their playing days are over.
Creating an NFL player: from “everyman” to “superman.”
Supporting the next generation of players and fans.
Preparing players of all ages for success at football’s highest level.
Introducing the next wave of NFL superstars.
A look at the programs the NFL and its partners provide to help every player before, during and after his football career.
Celebrating, educating, embracing and connecting all former NFL players with each other, their former teams and the league.
Discover the evolution of professional officiating, the weekly evaluation process and how the NFL identifies and develops the next generation of officials.
“One thing hasn’t changed: the pressure. It will always be there.”
The latest information from the NFL's officiating command center.
Every week, officials take the field ready to put months of preparation, training and hard work on display, knowing that the whole world — and the Officiating Department — is watching.
Officiating an NFL game takes years of training and experience.
NFL Football Operations protects the integrity of the game by ensuring that the rules and the officiating are consistent and fair to all competitors.
The custodians of football not only have protected its integrity, but have also revised its playing rules to protect the players, and to make the games fairer and more entertaining.
The NFL Video Rulebook explains NFL rules with video examples.
Explore the official rules of the game.
The NFL's procedures for breaking ties for postseason playoffs.
The NFL's familiar hand signals help fans better understand the game.
Sharpen your NFL football knowledge with this glossary of the game's fundamental terms.
See where the players line up in pro football's most common offensive and defensive formations.
Understand what the graphics on NFL television broadcasts mean and how they can help you get the most out of watching NFL games.
The NFL’s instant replay review process focuses on expediting instant replay reviews and ensuring consistency. Learn how it works.
Go inside the game with the NFL's official game stats. Sort the stats by season or by week.
Chart and compare the NFL Football Operations stats you're looking for with the NFL's data tool.
Get a snapshot of the current NFL game stats, updated weekly during the regular season.
Preparing players of all ages for success at football’s highest level.
The path to a potential handshake with the commissioner on draft night begins the first time a player straps on pads and a helmet. But with more than 1 million high school players and only about 300 NFL openings each year, the odds are astronomical that a player will make it from high school to the highest levels of the sport.
The league and its programs are about more than producing on-field talent — they’re about developing people with the character and leadership skills to succeed, in football or elsewhere.
The NFL strives to foster early and lasting interest in the game, instilling respect for the game’s foundational values, including teamwork, commitment and leadership. Football can be a catalyst for greater personal development at every level of play.
For the NFL, it’s about more than just building the next generation of great football players; it’s about building the next generation of great leaders — on and off the field.
For those with what it takes to compete to be among the next generation of NFL stars, the league’s Football Development team works to identify and develop the next generation of NFL stars. That includes preparing kids for the game at every level, teaching them the game and giving them every opportunity to showcase their talents.
“For a young man, no matter how good, to ‘set his sights’ on making a career in the NFL without planning for an alternative way to make a living is as unrealistic as walking into a Las Vegas casino with $10 and ‘planning’ on a $50,000 winning.” — Chuck Conners, former director of player personnel, Miami Dolphins
Programs like NFL PLAY 60 and Pop Warner get kids of all ages involved in football at a young age, but the development process starts in earnest during high school. That’s when the game becomes a real opportunity for serious players to pursue their gridiron dreams. The NFL’s High School Player Development and Player Engagement Prep programs lay the groundwork — providing players with the fundamentals necessary to succeed in football and beyond.
The NFL’s High School Player Development (HSPD) program — a free resource for both players and coaches — operates in many of America’s underserved communities to provide vital information and resources to help teach the essential aspects of the game. HSPD offers players the opportunity to improve on the building blocks of the game, while strengthening the characteristics that breed success away from the field. HSPD recognizes the importance of effective youth coaching and mentorship in the player development process.
HSPD imparts crucial information about NCAA guidelines for all students hoping to play sports in college. Educating young athletes about college eligibility and academic requirements as early as possible ensures that players don’t drop out of football for any preventable reason.
The NFL supports high school athletes through a range of Player Engagement Prep programs. The PREP 100 Series is an invitation-only one-day seminar that engages student-athletes in classroom and on-field sessions that provide position-specific techniques and training, and put them in front of NCAA representatives who share the latest about eligibility and recruiting. PREP 100 participants work with current and former NFL players to maximize their talent and grow personally.
The strongest players are also empowered leaders. Recognizing this, the NFL developed the Prep Leadership Program with the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania to provide two days of leadership training for 36 of the nation’s top high school athletes entering their senior year. The program stresses the importance of a well-rounded set of abilities to augment their athletic prowess. To be prepared for the next level of college sports, prep athletes must be leaders in the classroom as well as in the locker room.
These programs exist to prepare high school students for what lies ahead at the next level: college.
“We want to make the pipeline as wide as possible to attract as many players to the game as we can. High school football is a transformative experience for many, and the NFL wants to make sure that doesn’t change anytime soon.” — Matt Birk, NFL Director of Football Development
At the college level, the NFL wants to give student-athletes every opportunity to showcase their abilities, setting up players for success at every turn. The newfound challenges that come with balancing football and the rigors of higher education offer players a preview of the demands at the next level. To help ease the learning curve for student-athletes, the NFL works with the NCAA to provide the latest information about working within the rules to remain eligible.
After making the decision to permit underclassmen three years removed from high school to apply for the draft, the NFL developed the College Advisory Committee for team scouts to inform players where they are likely to be drafted — if at all. This protects players from making the decision to leave college too early and prematurely giving up both their college eligibility and the chances of improving their draft status.
In 2014, 44 of the 107 underclassmen who entered the draft went unselected and forfeited their remaining eligibility. The board counterbalances any hype that players may read and hear about themselves in the sports media by providing more realistic evaluations from the men and women who assess talent for NFL teams.
Each college team can have the board evaluate five underclassmen; any additional players are approved on a case-by-case basis. By limiting the number of players to evaluate, the NFL has been able to provide incredibly accurate projections of a player’s potential position in the draft.
The evaluation committee has correctly projected 73.7 percent of first-round picks, 85.4 percent of second-round picks and 52.9 percent of third-round selections. This degree of accuracy is made all the more impressive when one considers the number of players evaluated and the unpredictable nature of the NFL draft.
Above all else, the NFL wants student-athletes to stay in college until graduation so they have the opportunity to reach their full potential as players, and to develop a broad set of skills for life beyond football. Both the NFL and the NCAA want players to excel, and staying in school for the full four years is the best means to that end.
Of all the areas of NFL player development, scouting spans the entire process — tracking players all the way from high school to draft day. Scouting is integral to player development in the NFL — not only in turning up the best athletes in the game, but also in showing players how they need to improve to succeed.
Despite the ubiquity and magnitude of scouting in today’s NFL, its origins are far more modest. During football’s infancy, scouting didn’t technically exist — the first NFL draft was conducted using what amounted to a crowd-sourced list of players to choose from. As recently as the 1970s, teams relied on only one or two main scouts to cover the entire country.
Today, scouting is an exhaustive process — in terms of the number of players reviewed, in the myriad criteria used and in the ever-increasing demands on scouts. Tasked with identifying the brightest talents and undiscovered gems in college football, scouts evaluate thousands of players at hundreds of colleges and universities each year. They’re on the road more than they’re home, and must maintain an encyclopedic knowledge of every player they review.
Gone are the days when scouts would spot talent with only their eyes and a stopwatch. The scope and complexity of scouting constantly changes as teams increasingly rely on statistical data and advanced tracking tools, which allow scouts to collect more and more information. They now keep data on everything from body mass index to bench press repetitions to performance in certain game situations.
That’s not to say that there’s no room for subjective measures in evaluation — scouts still place tremendous value on intangible measures like work ethic and leadership. Each year, players see their draft stock rise based on the outcome of personal interviews and feedback from college coaches and teammates. Players’ value to the NFL goes far beyond their on-field performance — teams value the role that players have in building a strong locker room, and in contributing to the community.
“There’s not much breathing room for scouts when the season’s in swing. Each one is gone a minimum of 200 days a year. It takes a certain type of individual and, more importantly, a certain type of understanding family.” — Tom Boisture, former director of player personnel, New York Giants
The NFL’s Regional Combines give pro scouts the opportunity to find players who are just under the radar and provide a showcase for college players who weren’t invited to the National Scouting Combine, held in Indianapolis.
The five Regional Combines feature draft-eligible players who — for various reasons — may have yet to catch the eyes of talent evaluators. Participants run through the usual combine drills and measurements, and all results are logged in a database accessible to scouts from all 32 NFL teams.
Based on their performance, top players at the Regional Combines are invited to the Super Regional Combine for the opportunity to work out in front of scouts from every club.
Some participants will catch a scout’s eye and get the chance to live out their childhood dream.
In the 2014 season, 63 regional combine players earned roster spots on 27 of the 32 NFL clubs. Regional Combine alumni Brian Tyms (active roster) and Caylin Hauptmann (practice squad) won Super Bowl XLIX rings as members of the champion New England Patriots. Hauptmann also won a Super Bowl XLVIII ring while on the Seattle Seahawks active roster.
Prospects who don’t catch on with a team after the Regional Combines still get the opportunity to meet and network with representatives from NFL teams and develop relationships that could lead to other opportunities in football.
The NFL Scouting Combine, with its combination of physical, mental and medical examinations, is the Super Bowl of the player development process. Each NFL team’s personnel department is put to the test, tasked with making crucial decisions that can shape the future of a franchise. The National Combine isn’t like the Regional Combines — only about 335 players are invited each year, and those players who make it are truly the cream of the crop.
For those players invited to participate, the combine is a chance to measure themselves against the best players in college and prove their value to scouts from all 32 teams. Prospects get the chance to show how they match up with players from other programs, that they can transition to a new position or, in some cases, that they can play after an injury.
“One thing you can never forget is we play the game of football in full pads and at full speed. We don't play the game in our underwear, doing the long jump."
CARL PETERSON, FORMER GENERAL MANAGER, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
While fans focus on the on-field skills and measurements like the 40-yard dash, bench press and vertical leap, NFL teams value most what happens behind the scenes: player interviews with team reps and exhaustive medical examinations at the Indiana University Health system. These let NFL personnel see how a player works on physical, mental and emotional levels — all necessary to excel at the next level of competition.
The Scouting Combine is the ultimate four-day job interview for NFL hopefuls — an opportunity for elite college players to prove they’re ready and able to join one of the most exclusive clubs in sports as a professional football player.
The NFL draft serves as the “final exam” to measure each team’s scouting acumen. Teams draw from thousands of scouting reports, medical evaluations and personal interactions and decide which players can turn around a struggling franchise or fill in gaps to make a good team into an exceptional one.
Before teams get a shot at drafting players, NFL Football Operations must verify players’ eligibility. This means compiling background information on every player entering the draft in one central database — an exhaustive process that calls for the Football Operations team to review applicable college teams’ media guides and contact coaches and administrators to verify information. Only after the research is conducted can the NFL draft process begin in earnest.
The draft provides a chance for about 250 of the nation’s finest athletes to live out the dream they’ve been preparing for all their young lives: a chance to play in the NFL. Seven rounds of selections and an additional 32 compensatory picks awarded to select teams determine who has made the grade.
Tens of thousands of college players are left on the outside looking in. Those players left undrafted don’t need to abandon their NFL dreams. Thanks to the league’s legion of scouting events and player development programs, athletes will have networked with personnel and can still land on a team’s training camp roster or practice squad.
Even if a player can’t find a fit with an NFL team, the player development process doesn’t stop. The NFL’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP), open to players and their spouses or partners, provides players with peer-to-peer support to help them navigate the transition from the playing field to the next phase of life beyond football. Teams know that players have been shaped into tremendous citizens and leaders off the field, and work with them to identify opportunities in coaching, officiating and scouting that befit their unique skills and experiences.