Football Ops

Football Ops

Protecting the integrity of the greatest game.

NFL Ops: Honoring the Game

It's our responsibility to strengthen the sport.

League Governance

Ensuring a consistent and fair game that is decided on the field, by the players.

NFL Rules Enforcement

Ensuring that players conduct themselves in a way that honors the sport and respects the game.

NFL Way to Play

Knees Bent. Pads Down. Head Up.

The NFL and HBCUs

The NFL is proud of the HBCU professional football legacy.

Economic & Social Impact

Honoring the league’s commitment to serve the communities where the game is played.

The NFL Ops Team

Meet the people behind NFL Operations.

The Game

The Game

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. 

Gameday: Behind the Scenes

Countdown to kickoff: how NFL games happen.


In the NFL, balancing technology with tradition.

Impact of Television

How television has changed the game.

History of Instant Replay

Upon further review…

Creating the NFL Schedule

It takes hundreds of computers and five NFL executives to create the NFL’s 256-game masterpiece.

Big Data Bowl

The inaugural analytics contest explores statistical innovations in football — how the game is played and coached.

Youth Football

Promoting the values of football.

The Players

The Players

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.  

Evolution of the NFL Player

Creating an NFL player: from “everyman” to “superman.”

Development Pipeline

Supporting the next generation of players and fans.

Getting Into the Game

Preparing players of all ages for success at football’s highest level.

The NFL Draft

Introducing the next wave of NFL superstars. 

NFL Player Engagement

A look at the programs and services NFL Player Engagement provides to assist every player before, during and after his football career.

College All Star Games

Strengthening football and the community.

NFL Legends Community

Strengthening the NFL brotherhood.

The Officials

The Officials

Discover the evolution of professional officiating, the weekly evaluation process and how the NFL identifies and develops the next generation of officials.

In Focus: History of the Official

“One thing hasn’t changed: the pressure. It will always be there.”

Inside NFL GameDay Central

The latest information from the NFL's officiating command center.

These Officials Are Really Good

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 Development

Officiating an NFL game takes years of training and experience. 

The Rules

The Rules

NFL Football Operations protects the integrity of the game by ensuring that the rules and the officiating are consistent and fair to all competitors.

In Focus: Evolution of the NFL Rules

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.

NFL Video Rulebook

The NFL Video Rulebook explains NFL rules with video examples.

2018 NFL Rulebook

Explore the official rules of the game.

2018 Rules Changes and Points of Emphasis

NFL Overtime Rules

NFL Tiebreaking Procedures

The NFL's procedures for breaking ties for postseason playoffs.

Signals Intelligence

The NFL's familiar hand signals help fans better understand the game.   

NFL Rules Digest

A quick reference guide to the NFL rulebook.

Football 101

Football 101

Terms Glossary

Sharpen your NFL football knowledge with this glossary of the game's fundamental terms. 

Formations 101

See where the players line up in pro football's most common offensive and defensive formations.

Quick Guide to NFL TV Graphics

Understand what the graphics on NFL television broadcasts mean and how they can help you get the most out of watching NFL games.

NFL Instant Replay Process

The NFL’s instant replay review process focuses on expediting instant replay reviews and ensuring consistency. Learn how it works.

Stats Central

Stats Central

Go inside the game with the NFL's official game stats. Sort the stats by season or by week.

Chart The Data

Chart and compare the NFL Football Operations stats you're looking for with the NFL's data tool. 

Weekly Dashboard

Get a snapshot of the current NFL game stats, updated weekly during the regular season.

2018 Rules Changes and Points of Emphasis

The NFL is committed to protecting its players from unnecessary risk, while keeping the game fair, competitive and exciting.

The NFL Competition Committee receives and considers input from coaches, general managers, owners, current players and NFL Legends, the NFL Players Association, medical personnel and the media, and conducts hours of discussion and film study before recommending changes to any rule. 

During this process, the Committee asks several questions about each potential rule change: 

  • Does the change improve the game?
  • How will it be officiated?
  • How will it be coached?
  • How can the player play by the rule? 

There was a particular emphasis placed on player protection, which resulted in rules changes and points of emphasis to reduce risk and prevent injury.

The league reviews changes with players, coaches and officials during training camp and the NFL Officiating Clinic to help everyone adapt to the rules changes and points of emphasis. The Officiating Department also provides training videos for players and coaches with specific examples.

2018 NFL Rules Changes

Use of Helmet 

The most significant change for 2018 is the new Use of Helmet rule. The rule states that it is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. This rule pertains to all players on the field, and to all areas of the field.

The officiating standards for the Use of Helmet rule are: 

  • Lowering the head (not to include bracing for contact)
  • Initiating contact with the helmet to any part of an opponent. Contact does not have to be to an opponent’s head or neck area — lowering the head and initiating contact to an opponent’s torso, hips, and lower body, is also a foul.
  • Making contact on an opponent (both offense and defense)

Players can be ejected for use of helmet fouls — and all ejections will be reviewed by senior officials in Art McNally GameDay Central in New York. The standards for ejection are, if: 

  • The player lowers his helmet to establish a linear body posture prior to initiating and making contact with the helmet;
  • The player delivering the blow had an unobstructed path to his opponent; and if
    • The contact was clearly avoidable

Kickoff Rules 

Owners voted to change the kickoff rules for the 2018 season. The Committee will reevaluate the effects of the changes in the offseason.

New kickoff rules for the 2018 NFL season.

Beginning this season: 

  • The kickoff team must have five players on each side of the ball and cannot line up more than one-yard from the restraining line. For example, the kicking team will line up at the 34-yard line for a kickoff from the 35-yard line.
  • At least two players must be lined up outside the yard-line number and two players between the inbounds lines (hash marks) and the yard-line number.
  • At least eight players of the receiving team must be lined up in the 15-yard “setup zone” prior to kickoff; only three receiving-team players can remain outside of the setup zone.

Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Dave Toub discusses how making changes to the kickoff helps advance player safety.

  • No wedge blocks are permitted. A wedge block is defined as “two or more players intentionally aligning shoulder-to-shoulder within two yards of each other, and who move forward together in an attempt to block for the runner.” Players initially lined up in the setup zone may still double-team a block if it is not a wedge block.
  • Until the ball is touched or hits the ground, no player on either the receiving or kicking team may block within the 15-yard area from the kicking team’s restraining line. On an onside kick, the kicking team may not block in the first 10 yards.
  • The ball is dead if it is not touched by the receiving team and touches the ground in the end zone (touchback).

Visit the NFL rulebook to see the official language for the 2018 kickoff rules.

Catch Rule 

Owners voted to simplify the standards of a catch. There are now three main requirements for completing a catch. The player must: 

Owners voted to simplify the standards of a catch. 

Owners voted to simplify the standards of a catch. 

  • Have control of the ball
  • Get two feet or another body part down
  • Make a football move, such as a third step, reaching or extending for the line-to-gain, or having the ability to perform such an act

A player no longer must control the ball through the ground for a completed catch, and movement of the ball does not automatically result in loss of control. If a player loses control of the ball, it is an incomplete pass if the ball hits the ground before he regains control, or if he regains control out of bounds.

A receiver is considered defenseless throughout the entire process of a catch, up until the player is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact.

Illegal Batting and Kicking the Ball 

It is an illegal bat if: 

  • Any player bats or punches a loose ball in the field of play toward his opponent’s goal line
  • Any player bats or punches a loose ball (that has touched the ground) in any direction, if it is in either end zone
  • An offensive player bats a backward pass in flight toward his opponent’s goal line.

A forward pass in flight may be tipped, batted, or deflected in any direction by any eligible player at any time. No player may deliberately kick a loose ball or a ball that is in a player’s possession.

Other rules changes for 2018 include:

  • The spot of the next snap following a touchback on a free kick to the 25-yard line was made permanent.
  • A designated member of the Officiating Department may instruct on-field game officials to disqualify a player for a flagrant non-football act when that foul is called on the field.
  • The team that scores a winning touchdown at the end of regulation is no longer required to kick the extra point or go for a two-point conversion.
  • In overtime, if the team that possesses the ball first scores a field goal on its initial possession and the second team loses possession by an interception or fumble, the down will be permitted to run to its conclusion, including awarding points scored by either team during the down.

2018 NFL Points of Emphasis


The Competition Committee continues to emphasize the importance of sportsmanship. 

The Competition Committee continues to emphasize the importance of sportsmanship. 

The Competition Committee continues to emphasize the importance of sportsmanship. The league office will continue to hold players accountable for flagrant hits and non-football acts through suspensions and ejections.


Illegal Contact will be more strictly enforced this season. The rule states that beyond five yards “a defender cannot initiate contact with a receiver who is attempting to evade him,” and that “a defender may use his hands or arms only to defend or protect himself against impending contact by a receiver.” Otherwise, only incidental contact is permitted.

Both offensive and defensive pass interference will also be strictly enforced, including: 

  • Contact that restricts the opponent’s opportunity to make the catch;
  • Playing through the back of an opponent;
  • Grabbing an opponent’s arm;
  • Extending an arm across the body of an opponent;
  • Cutting off the path of an opponent by making contact;
  • Hooking an opponent;
  • Shoving or pushing off to create separation.

Protection of Runners Who Give Themselves Up

The Committee clarified the protections for sliding quarterbacks and any runner who gives himself up: 

Explore the NFL Video Rulebook.

Explore the NFL Video Rulebook.

  • If a runner (including a quarterback) gives himself up, then he is down where the first body part touches the ground. The runner should not benefit from additional yardage after the first body part touches. Defenders do not have to go down to initiate contact to stop a runner from gaining more yards after he contacts the ground.
  • Quarterbacks and all runners must give themselves up early, and if a defender has committed to a tackle, contact may occur. However, that contact cannot be late or to the head or neck area of the player who gave himself up.
  • A quarterback does not have to slide feet first to be considered to be giving himself up. Regardless whether the slide is feet first or head first, as long as he gives himself up, he should receive the protections afforded to him as a player in a defenseless posture. 


The Committee reviewed hits on quarterbacks inside and outside the pocket. In some instances, the defender used all or part of his body weight to land on the quarterback immediately after the ball was thrown. These actions put the quarterback at risk for injury. The Officiating Department will emphasize that the defender is responsible for avoiding landing on the quarterback when taking him to the ground.


The Officiating Department will emphasize that fouls are called when defenders initiate contact to the head or neck area of the snapper.

The Officiating Department will emphasize that fouls are called when defenders initiate contact to the head or neck area of the snapper.

While there is no rule change, the Officiating Department will emphasize in 2018 that fouls are called when defenders initiate contact to the head or neck area of the snapper.


On punt plays, officials will strictly enforce that gunners must demonstrate an immediate effort to take an angle to return inbounds once they are in the white border. Gunners running in the white border often put players, coaches and sideline personnel at risk. If a gunner does not show that he is immediately taking an angle to return inbounds, a foul will be called. 


Officials will immediately blow the whistle when the play is over or when a runner’s forward progress has been stopped. Players should attempt to avoid any contact after the whistle is blown. Unnecessary and forcible contact to an opponent after the whistle has been blown will result in an unnecessary roughness penalty.