2020 NFL Rulebook
Explore the official rules of the game.
Explore the official rules of the game.
Rules-Section-Article | Description
This edition of the Official Playing Rules of the National Football League contains all current rules governing the playing of professional football that are in effect for the 2020 NFL season. Member clubs of the League may amend the rules from time to time, pursuant to the applicable voting procedures of the NFL Constitution and Bylaws.
Any intra-League dispute or call for interpretation in connection with these rules will be decided by the Commissioner of the League, whose ruling will be final.
Because inter-conference games are played throughout the preseason, regular season, and postseason in the NFL, all rules contained in this book apply uniformly to both the American and National Football Conferences.
Where the word “illegal” appears in this rule book, it is an institutional term of art pertaining strictly to actions that violate NFL playing rules. It is not meant to connote illegality under any public law or the rules or regulations of any other organization.
The word “flagrant,” when used here to describe an action by a player, is meant to indicate that the degree of a violation of the rules—usually a personal foul or unnecessary roughness—is extremely objectionable, conspicuous, unnecessary, avoidable, or gratuitous. “Flagrant” in these rules does not necessarily imply malice on the part of the fouling player or an intention to injure an opponent.
Copyright © 2020 by the National Football League. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America.
NFL bench area showing restricting zones.
4. Game Timing
5. Players, Substitutes, Equipment, General Rules
6. Free Kicks
7. Ball in Play, Dead Ball, Scrimmage
8. Forward Pass, Backward Pass, Fumble
9. Scrimmage Kick
10. Opportunity to Catch a Kick, Fair Catch
12. Player Conduct
13. Non-Player Conduct
14. Penalty Enforcement
15. Instant Replay
16. Overtime Procedures
17. Emergencies, Unfair Acts
18. Guidelines for Captains
Table of Foul Codes/Team Abbreviation Codes
The game shall be played upon a rectangular field, 360 feet in length and 160 feet in width. The lines at each end of the field are termed End Lines. Those on each side are termed Sidelines. Goal Lines shall be established in the field 10 yards from and parallel to each end line. The area bounded by goal lines and sidelines is known as the Field of Play. The surface of the entire Field of Play must be a League-approved shade of green. The areas bounded by goal lines, end lines, and sidelines are known as the End Zones.
The areas bounded by goal lines and lines parallel to, and 70 feet 9 inches inbounds, from each sideline, are known as the Side Zones. The lines parallel to sidelines are termed Inbound Lines. The end lines and the sidelines are also termed Boundary Lines.
The Field includes the Field of Play and the End Zones. The Field will be rimmed by a solid white border a minimum of 6 feet wide along the end lines and sidelines. An additional broken limit line 6 feet further outside this border is to encompass the Field in the non-bench areas, and such broken line will be continued at an angle from each 32-yard line and pass behind the bench areas (all benches a minimum 30 feet back from the sidelines). In addition, within each bench area, a yellow line 6 feet behind the solid white border will delineate a special area for coaches, behind which all players, except one player charting the game, must remain. If a club’s solid white border is a minimum of 12 feet wide, there is no requirement that the broken restraining line also be added in the non-bench areas. However, the appropriate yellow line described above must be clearly marked within the bench areas.
In special circumstances (for example, an artificial surface in a multi-purpose stadium) and subject to prior approval from the League Office, a club may omit the 6-foot solid white border during the preseason or later period while football overlaps with another sport, and substitute a single 4-inch white line at what normally would be the outer limit of the solid border (6 feet from the sidelines).
At intervals of 5 yards, yard lines (3-12-9) parallel to the goal lines shall be marked in the field of play. These lines are to stop 8 inches short of the 6-foot solid border. The 4-inch wide yard lines are to be extended 4 inches beyond the white 6-foot border along the sidelines. Each of these lines shall be intersected at right angles by short lines 70 feet, 9 inches long (23 yards, 1 foot, 9 inches) in from each side to indicate inbound lines.
In line with the Inbound Lines there shall be marks at 1-yard intervals between each distance of 5 yards for the full length of the field. These lines are to begin 8 inches from the 6-foot solid border and are to measure 2 feet in length.
Bottoms of numbers indicating yard lines in multiples of 10 must be placed beginning 12 yards in from each sideline. These are to be 2 yards in length.
Two yards from the middle of each goal line and parallel to it, there shall be marked in the Field of Play, lines 1 yard in length.
All boundary lines, goal lines, and marked lines are to be continuous lines. These, and any other specified markings, must be in white, and there shall be no exceptions without the authorization of the Commissioner. Field numerals must also be white.
Care must be exercised in any end-zone marking or decoration or club identification at the 50-yard line that said marking or decorations do not in any way cause confusion as to delineation of goal lines, sidelines, and end lines. Such markings or decorations must be approved by the Commissioner.
The four intersections of goal lines and sidelines must be marked, at inside corners, by weighted pylons. In addition, two such pylons shall be placed on each end line (four in all).
All measurements are to be made from the inside edges of the line marking the boundary lines. Each goal line marking is to be in its end zone so that the edge of the line toward the field of play (actual goal line) is 30 feet from the inside edge of the end line. Each goal line is to be eight inches wide.
All lines are to be marked with a material that is not injurious to eyes or skin. It is desirable that the yard line markers be flexible in order to prevent injury. No benches or rigid fixtures should be nearer than 10 yards from sidelines.
In League parks where ground rules are necessary, because of fixed conditions that cannot be changed, they will be made by the Commissioner.
In the plane of each end line, there shall be a centrally placed horizontal crossbar 18 feet, 6 inches in length, the top face of which is 10 feet above the ground. The goal is the vertical plane extending indefinitely above the crossbar and between the lines indicated by the outer edges of the goal posts.
All goal posts will be the single-standard type, offset from the end line and bright gold in color. The uprights will extend 35 feet above the crossbar and will be no less than 3 inches and no more than 4 inches in diameter. An orange-colored ribbon 4 inches by 42 inches is to be attached to the top of each post.
Note: Goal posts must be padded in a manner prescribed by the League.
At the option of the home team, both the players’ benches may be located on the same side of the field. In such a case, the end of each bench shall start at the 45-yard line and continue towards the adjacent goal line.
Note: When both benches are so located, the chain crew and linespersons are to operate during the entire game on the opposite side to the benches.
Members of the chain crew and the ball boys/girls must be uniformly identifiable as specified by the Commissioner. White shirts are to be worn by members of the chain crew.
The home club must provide and use the standard set of sideline markers that have been approved by the Commissioner.
The Ball must be a “Wilson,” hand selected, bearing the signature of the Commissioner of the League, Roger Goodell.
The ball shall be made up of an inflated (12½ to 13½ pounds) urethane bladder enclosed in a pebble grained, leather case (natural tan color) without corrugations of any kind. It shall have the form of a prolate spheroid and the size and weight shall be: long axis, 11 to 11¼ inches; long circumference, 28 to 28½ inches; short circumference, 21 to 21¼ inches; weight, 14 to 15 ounces.
The Referee shall be the sole judge as to whether all balls offered for play comply with these specifications. A pump is to be furnished by the home club, and the balls shall remain under the supervision of the Referee until they are delivered to the ball attendant just prior to the start of the game.
Each team will make 12 primary and 12 backup balls available for testing by the Referee no later than two hours and 30 minutes prior to the starting time of the game to meet League requirements. For all games, six new footballs, sealed in a special box and shipped by the manufacturer to the Referee, will be opened in the officials’ locker room two hours and 15 minutes prior to the starting time of the game. These balls are to be specially marked by the Referee and used exclusively for the kicking game.
In the event a home team ball does not conform to specifications, or its supply is exhausted, the Referee shall secure a proper ball from the visitors and, failing that, use the best available ball. Any such circumstances must be reported to the Commissioner.
In case of rain or a wet, muddy, or slippery field, a playable ball shall be used at the request of the offensive team’s center. The Game Clock shall not stop for such action (unless undue delay occurs).
Note: It is the responsibility of the home team to furnish playable balls at all times by attendants from either side of the playing field.
An Approved Ruling (A.R.) is a written decision on a given statement of facts and serves to illustrate the intent and application of a rule. Supplemental notes are used to amplify a rule. A Note is more specific and applies to a particular situation. It is also used to indicate pertinent references to other rules.
An Official Ruling (O.R.) is a ruling made in the interim between the annual rules meetings and is official only during the current season.
Technical Terms are such terms that have a fixed and defined meaning throughout the Playing Rules. Because of their alphabetical arrangement in Rule 3, certain ones are used prior to being defined. In such cases, they appear in bold type only the first time they are used.
A Dead Ball is one that is not in play. The time period during which the ball is dead is Between Downs. This includes the interval during all timeouts, including intermission, and from the time the ball becomes dead until it is legally put in play.
A Dead Ball is Ready for Play while the 40-second Play Clock is running when the ball is placed down by an official at the spot where the ball will next be put in play, or when the Referee signals for the 25-second Play Clock to start.
A Live Ball is a ball that is in play. A Dead Ball becomes a live ball when it is:
It continues in play until the down ends (3-9-1).
A Loose Ball is a live ball that is not in player possession, i.e., any ball that has been kicked, passed, or fumbled. A Loose Ball is considered to be in possession of the team (offense) whose player kicked, passed, or fumbled it. It is a Loose Ball until a player secures possession or until the ball becomes dead. If it has not yet struck the ground, a Loose Ball is In Flight.
A Fumble is any act, other than passing, successful handing, or legally kicking the ball, which results in a loss of player possession. It is not a fumble if the player immediately regains control of the ball. The use of the term Fumble always means that the ball was in possession of a player when the act occurred (8-7-3).
Note: An intentional fumble that causes the ball to go forward is a forward pass and may be illegal (8-1-1-Pen. a–c).
A Muff is the touching of a loose ball by a player in an unsuccessful attempt to obtain possession of it.
Touching the Ball refers to any contact with the ball. There is no distinction between a player touching the ball with his hands, or with any other part of his body, including his hair, except as specifically provided for (9-2-2).
Note: The result of the touching is sometimes influenced by the intent or the location.
A player is in possession when he is inbounds and has control of the ball with his hands or arms.
To gain possession of a loose ball that has been caught, intercepted, or recovered, a player (a) must have complete control of the ball with his hands or arms and (b) have both feet or any other part of his body, other than his hands, completely on the ground inbounds, and, after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, perform any act common to the game (e.g., tuck the ball away, extend it forward, take an additional step, turn upfield, or avoid or ward off an opponent). It is not necessary that he commit such an act, provided that he maintains control of the ball long enough to do so. This rule applies in the field of play, at the sideline, and in the end zone.
The terms catch, intercept, recover, advance, and fumble denote player possession (as distinguished from touching or muffing).
A catch is made when a player inbounds secures possession of a pass, kick, or fumble that is in flight. An interception is made when an opponent who is inbounds catches a forward or backward pass or a fumble that has not touched the ground.
A recovery is made when a player inbounds secures possession of a loose ball after it has touched the ground.
If a Loose Ball is controlled simultaneously by two opponents, and both players retain it, it is simultaneous possession, and the ball belongs to the team last in possession, or to the receiving team when there has been a Free Kick, Scrimmage Kick, or Fair Catch Kick. It is not simultaneous possession if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control.
A Bat is the intentional striking of the ball with any part of the hand or arm. See 12-5-1.
Blocking is the act of obstructing or impeding an opponent by contacting him with a part of the blocker’s body.
A Block in the Back is a block that is delivered from behind an opponent above his waist. It is not a block in the back:
A Block Below the Waist is when the initial contact with any part of the blocker’s body is below the waist of an opponent, other than the runner, who has one or both feet on the ground. A blocker who makes contact above the waist and then slides below the waist has not blocked below the waist. If an opponent uses his hands to ward off a block creating contact below the waist, it is not a block below the waist.
Chucking is intentionally contacting an eligible receiver who is in front of a defender. (See 12-1-5-d-exc. 1).
Clipping is blocking an opponent from behind below the waist, provided the opponent is not a runner. It is not clipping if an opponent turns his back as the block is delivered or about to be delivered.
Close-Line Play is contact that occurs in an area extending between the outside edges of the normal tackle positions and three yards on either side of the line of scrimmage.
A Disqualified Player is one who is prohibited from further participation in the game. He must return to his dressing room within a reasonable period of time and is not permitted to reappear in his team uniform or return to any area other than to which spectators have access.
A down that starts with a snap is a Scrimmage Down (3-30).
A down that starts with a free kick is a Free Kick Down (6-1-1).
A Series of Downs is the four consecutive charged scrimmage downs allotted to the offensive team during which it must advance the ball to a yard line called “the line to gain” in order to retain possession.
The Line to Gain is the spot 10 yards in advance of the spot of the snap that starts a series, except when a goal line is less than 10 yards from this spot. In that case, the Line to Gain is the goal line.
A Charged Down is a scrimmage down that is not nullified by a penalty, or during which there is not a change of possession. It counts as a down in a Series of Downs.
The initial down in each series is the First Down. If it is a charged down, subsequent charged downs are numbered consecutively (i.e., second down, third down, or fourth down) until a new series is declared for either team (7-3).
A Fair Catch is an unhindered catch of a scrimmage kick (provided that it has crossed the line of scrimmage), or of a free kick, that is in flight by a player of the receiving team who has legally signaled his intention of attempting such a catch (10-2-1).
Note: For fair-catch kick, see 11-4-3.
A Field Goal is made by kicking the ball from the field of play through the plane of the opponents’ Goal, which is an area either between the goal posts and above the cross bar, or, if above the goal posts, between the outside edges of the goal posts. A Field Goal is made by a drop kick or a place kick from (a) on or behind the line on a play from scrimmage or (b) during a fair catch kick. See 11-4-3; 3-18-1-Item 1–2; and 10-2-4-a.
The Boundary Lines are the End Lines and the Sidelines and enclose the field upon which the game is played.
The End Lines are the lines at each end of the field and are perpendicular to the Sidelines. The End Line is 10 yards from the Goal Line and at the back of the End Zone.
The End Zone is the rectangle formed by the Goal Line, the End Line, and the Sidelines. The Goal Line and the pylons are in the End Zone.
The Field of Play is the rectangle formed by the Goal Lines and the Sidelines. It does not include the End Zone.
The goal is the area above the crossbar between the uprights, or, if above the uprights, the area between the outside edges of the uprights. A team’s Own Goal is the one it is defending. The adjacent goal line is known as its goal line.
The Goal Lines are the lines between the Sidelines that separate the End Zone from the field of play. The Goal Lines are vertical planes that are parallel to and 10 yards from the End Lines.
The Inbounds Lines are hash marks on the Field of Play that are 70 feet nine inches from and parallel to each sideline.
The Sidelines are the lines on each side of the field and are perpendicular to the End Lines. The Sidelines separate the Field of Play from the area that is out of bounds.
A Yard Line is any line and its vertical plane parallel to the end line. The Yard Lines (marked or unmarked) in the field of play are named by number in yards from a team’s goal line to the center of the field.
Note: The yard line 19 yards from Team A’s goal line is called A’s 19-yard line. The yard line 51 yards from A’s goal line is called B’s 49-yard line. For brevity, these are referred to as A’s 19 and B’s 49 or A19 and B49.
The Forward Progress of a runner or airborne receiver is the point at which his advance toward his opponent’s goal ends and is the spot at which the ball is declared dead by rule, irrespective of the runner or receiver being pushed or carried backward by an opponent.
Forward, Beyond, or In Advance Of are terms that designate a point nearer the goal line of the defense. Backward or Behind designate a point nearer the goal line of the offense. A pass parallel to a yard line, or an offensive player moving parallel to it at the snap, is considered backward.
A Foul is any infraction of a playing rule for which a penalty is prescribed.
The Basic Spot is a reference point for specific types of plays that is used to determine the Spot of Enforcement.
The Spot of Enforcement is the spot at which a penalty is enforced. Six such spots are commonly used:
A violation is an infraction of a playing rule for which a penalty is not prescribed. A violation does not offset a foul.
Handing the ball is transferring player possession from one teammate to another without passing or kicking it.
A Huddle is the action of two or more players in the field of play or in the end zone who, instead of assuming their normal position for the snap, free kick, or Fair Catch kick form a group for receiving instructions for the next play or for any other reason.
Impetus is the action of a player who carries the ball or provides the force (i.e., a pass, kick, snap, or fumble) that causes a ball in the field of play to touch or cross a goal line. If a Loose Ball touches or crosses a goal line, the impetus is attributed to the team whose player passed, kicked, snapped, or fumbled the ball, unless an opponent:
A Kick is intentionally striking the ball with the knee, lower leg, or foot. A kick ends when a player of either team possesses the ball, or when the ball is dead.
Item 1. Drop Kick. A Drop Kick is a kick by a player who drops the ball and kicks it as, or immediately after, it touches the ground.
Item 2. Placekick. A Placekick is a kick made by a player while the ball is in a fixed position on the ground. The ball may be held in position by a teammate. If it is a kickoff, it is permissible to use an approved manufactured tee.
Item 3. Punt. A Punt is a kick made by a player who drops the ball and kicks it before it strikes the ground.
A Kicker is the player of Team A who legally drop kicks, placekicks, or punts the ball. Team A is identified as the kickers during a down in which there is a scrimmage kick, free kick, or fair catch kick.
A Receiver is any Team B player during a down in which there is a scrimmage kick, free kick, or fair catch kick. Team B is identified as the receiving team during the entire down.
A Fair Catch Kick is a drop kick or placekick without a tee from the spot of a Fair Catch in an attempt to score a Field Goal.
A Free Kick is a kickoff or safety kick that puts the ball in play to start a Free Kick down.
Item 1. Kickoff. A Kickoff is a kick that puts the ball in play at the start of each half, at the start of overtime, after each Try, and after a successful field goal.
Item 2. Safety Kick. A Safety Kick is a kick that puts the ball in play after a safety.
The Restraining Lines are lines which restrict the alignment of the kicking and receiving teams during a Free Kick and Fair Catch Kick.
A Scrimmage Kick is a punt, drop kick, or placekick from on or behind the line of scrimmage.
A Tee is an approved device that is used to elevate the ball for a placekick during a kickoff.
The Line of Scrimmage is the vertical plane of the yard line that passes through the forward point of the ball after it has been made ready for play. The term scrimmage line, or line, implies a play from scrimmage.
The Neutral Zone is the space between the forward and backward points of the ball (planes) and extends to the sidelines. It starts when the ball is ready for play (See Neutral Zone Infraction, 7-4-4).
A player of Team A, who is on the line of scrimmage, must have his shoulders facing Team B’s goal line.
Item 1. Non-Snapper. If he is not the snapper, no part of his body is permitted to be in the neutral zone at the snap, and his helmet must break a vertical plane that passes through the beltline of the snapper.
Item 2. Snapper. If he is the snapper, no part of his body may be beyond the Neutral Zone.
Note: Interlocking of legs is permissible.
Item 3. Team B. A Team B player in a three-point or four-point stance is considered to be on the line of scrimmage if he is within one yard of the neutral zone. A Team B player in a two-point stance is considered to be on the line if any part of his body is breaking the vertical plane that passes through the feet of the deepest down lineman.
A player is encroaching (7-4-3) on the Neutral Zone when any part of his body is in it and he contacts an offensive player or the ball prior to the snap.
A Loose Ball has crossed the line of scrimmage when, as the result of a fumble, pass, or legal kick by a Team A player, it touches the ground or any player or official beyond the neutral zone.
A player is Offside when any part of his body or his person is in the Neutral Zone, or is beyond his free kick line, or fair catch kick line when the ball is put in play, unless he is a holder of a placekick for a free kick (6-1-3-b-1) or fair catch kick (11-4-3), or a kicker (6-1-3-b-2). The snapper is offside if any part of his body is beyond the neutral zone. The kicker is not offside unless his kicking foot is beyond his Restraining Line when the ball is kicked.
A player or an Official is Out of Bounds when he touches a boundary line, or when he touches anything that is on or outside a boundary line, except a player, an official, or a pylon.
A player who has been out of bounds re-establishes himself as an inbounds player when both feet, or any part of his body other than his hands, touch the ground within the boundary lines, provided that no part of his body is touching a boundary line or anything other than a player, an official, or a pylon on or outside a boundary line.
Item 1. Ball in Player Possession. A ball that is in player possession is out of bounds when the runner is out of bounds, or when the ball touches a boundary line or anything that is on or outside such line, except another player or an official.
Item 2. Loose Ball. A loose ball that is not in player control is out of bounds when it touches a boundary line or anything that is on or outside such line, including a player, an official, or a pylon.
Item 1. Loose Ball. If a Loose Ball touches anything on or outside a boundary line, the Out-of-Bounds Spot is the forward point of the ball when the ball crosses the sideline.
Item 2. Runner Out of Bounds. If the ball is in player possession when that player goes out of bounds, the out-of-bounds spot is the forward point of the ball when the ball crosses the side line, or, if the ball does not cross the sideline, the forward point of the ball at the instant the player is out of bounds.
Item 3. Runner Inbounds. If the ball, while in possession of a player who is inbounds, is declared out of bounds because of touching anything that is out of bounds, the out-of-bounds spot is the yard line through the forward point of the ball at the instant of such touching.
The Inbounds Spot is a spot on the Inbounds Line (the hash marks) that passes through the spot where the ball went out of bounds between the goal lines.
A pass is the movement caused by a player intentionally handing, throwing, shoveling (shovel pass), or pushing (push pass) the ball (3-25-2). Such a movement is a pass even if the ball does not leave his hand or hands, provided a teammate takes it (hand-to-hand pass).
A player who makes a legal forward pass is known as the Passer until the play ends. The teammates of any player who passes the ball forward (legally or illegally) are known collectively as the Passing Team or Passers.
A Pass Play begins with the snap and ends when a forward pass thrown from behind the line of scrimmage is caught by a player of either team or is incomplete. After the pass is caught, a Running Play begins.
It is a forward pass if:
Item 1. Contact by Team B Player. If a Team B player contacts the passer or the ball after forward movement begins, a forward pass is ruled, regardless of where the ball strikes the ground or a player. When this occurs, intentional grounding rules do not apply.
If a Team B player contacts the passer or the ball before forward movement begins, the direction of the pass is the responsibility of the passer, and grounding rules apply.
Item 2. Passer Tucks Ball. If the player loses possession of the ball during an attempt to bring it back toward his body, or if the player loses possession after he has tucked the ball into his body, it is a fumble.
Item 3. Passer re-cocks his arm. If the player loses possession of the ball while attempting to re-cock his arm, it is a fumble.
Item 4. Fumbled or Muffed Ball Goes Forward. The fact that a fumbled or muffed ball goes forward is disregarded, unless the act is ruled intentional. If it is intentional, a fumbled ball that goes forward is a forward pass (8-1-1), and a muff is a bat (12-5-1).
It is a Backward Pass if the yard line at which the ball is first touched by a player or the ground is parallel to or behind the yard line at which the ball leaves the passer’s hand. A snap becomes a backward pass when the snapper releases the ball.
Note: If a pass is batted, muffed, punched, or kicked in any direction, its original designation as a Forward Pass or a Backward Pass does not change.
A Penalty is imposed upon a team that has committed a foul and may result in loss of down, loss of yardage, an automatic first down, a charged timeout, a loss of playing time, withdrawal or disqualification of a player, extension of a period, the award of a score, or a combination of the preceding.
The phrase Loss of Down indicates that a team committing a foul will not have the opportunity to repeat the down after enforcement of any yardage penalty.
A Player is a participant of either team who is in the game.
A Free Kick Play begins with a legal or illegal free kick and ends when a player of either team establishes possession of the ball, or when the ball is dead by rule. A Running Play begins when a player of Team B establishes possession.
A Pass Play begins with the snap and ends when a forward pass thrown from behind the line of scrimmage is caught by a player of either team or is incomplete. At the instant that a pass is caught, a Running Play begins.
A Running Play begins in the following situations:
A Running Play ends:
Note: The running play includes the loose-ball action before a player gains or regains possession or the ball is declared dead.
A Scrimmage Kick Play begins with the snap. It ends when a player of either team establishes possession of a kicked ball, or when the ball is dead by rule.
A Fair Catch Kick Play begins when the ball is kicked. It ends when a player of either team establishes possession of the ball, or when the ball is dead by rule.
There may be a combination of a Running Play and a Passing Play, Free Kick Play, Scrimmage Kick Play, or Fair Catch Kick Play during the same down, and there may be more than one Running Play or Scrimmage Kick Play during the same down.
The Pocket Area is the area between the outside edges of the normal tackle positions on each side of the center extending backward to the offensive team’s end line. After the ball leaves the pocket area, this area no longer exists.
A foul by the receiving team is a post-possession foul if it occurs during a scrimmage kick that crosses the line of scrimmage, provided that the receiving team does not lose possession during the rest of the down. See 9-5-1-Exc. 4.
A Runner is the offensive player who is in possession of a live ball (3-2-7), i.e., holding the ball or carrying it in any direction.
Note: The statement that a player may advance means that he may become a runner, make a legal kick (9-1-1), make a backward pass (8-7-1), or throw a forward pass (8-1-1) from behind the line of scrimmage.
It is a Safety if the spot of enforcement for a foul by the offense is behind its own goal line, or if the ball is dead in possession of a team on or behind its own goal line when the impetus (3-17) comes from the team defending that goal line.
A Scrimmage Down is one that starts with a snap (3-32). From Scrimmage refers to any action from the start of the snap until the down ends or until Team B secures possession. Any action that occurs during the down after a change of team possession is Not From Scrimmage.
A Shift is any simultaneous change of position or stance by two or more offensive players before the snap after the ball has been made ready for play for a scrimmage down, including movement to the line of scrimmage by the offensive team prior to the snap (7-4-8).
A Snap is a backward pass that puts the ball in play to start a scrimmage down, either by handing it or passing it backward from its position on the ground. The Snapper is the offensive player who initiates this action. See 7-6 for conditions pertaining to a legal snap.
A Suspended Player is one who must be withdrawn, in accordance with Rule 5, for correction of illegal equipment (5-4).
The Tackle Box is an area between the outside edges of the normal tackle positions extending from three yards beyond the line of scrimmage to the offensive team’s end line. After the ball leaves the tackle box, this area no longer exists.
Tackling is an attempt by a defensive player to hold a runner to halt his advance or bring him to the ground.
Whenever a team is in possession (3-2-7) of the ball, it is the Offense, and its opponent is the Defense. The team that is the Offense becomes the Defense, and vice versa, when there is a change of possession during the down.
The team that puts the ball in play is Team A, and its opponent is Team B. They remain Team A and Team B until a down ends, even though there may be one or more changes of possession during the down. Team A is always the Offense when a down starts, but becomes the Defense if Team B secures possession during the down. A player of Team A is referred to as A1 and his teammates as A2, A3, etc. The opponents are B1, B2, etc.
A change of possession occurs when a player of the defensive team secures possession of a ball that has been kicked, passed, or fumbled by a player of the offensive team, or when the ball is awarded to the opposing team by rule. A change of possession includes, but is not limited to:
During any timeout, including an intermission, all playing rules continue in effect. Representatives of either team are prohibited from entering the field, unless they are incoming substitutes, or team attendants or trainers entering to provide for the welfare of a player, and any game-type activities are prohibited on the Field of Play. The Head Coach may enter the field to check on the welfare of a player who is injured, but no assistant coach may enter the field.
A Charged Team Timeout is an interval during which the Game Clock is stopped and play is suspended at the request of one of the teams or when it is charged to one of the teams by rule. A Timeout may be granted only when the ball is dead.
Time In is any interval during which the Game Clock is running (4-3).
It is a Touchback if the ball is dead on or behind the goal line a team is defending, provided that the impetus comes from an opponent, and that it is not a touchdown or an incomplete pass.
It is a Touchdown if any part of the ball is on, above, or behind the opponent’s goal line while legally in possession of an inbounds player, provided it is not a touchback.
A Try is the attempt by a team that has scored a touchdown to add one point (by a field goal) or two points (by a touchdown) during one untimed scrimmage down (11-3).
The two-minute warning is an automatic timeout that occurs at the conclusion of the last down for which the ball is legally snapped or kicked prior to two minutes remaining on the game clock in the second and fourth periods.
The length of the game is 60 minutes, divided into four periods of 15 minutes each. In the event the score is tied at the end of four periods, the game is extended by an overtime period (or periods) as prescribed in Rule 16.
There will be intervals of at least two minutes between the first and second periods (first half) and between the third and fourth periods (second half). During these intermissions all playing rules continue in force, and no representative of either team shall enter the field unless he is an incoming substitute, or a team attendant or trainer, entering to see to the welfare of a player. The Head Coach may enter the field to check on the welfare of a player who is injured, but no assistant coach may enter the field.
Penalty: For illegally entering the field: Loss of 15 yards from the succeeding spot (13-1-6-Pen.).
The Back Judge times the two-minute intermissions and shall signal visibly (and sound the whistle if necessary) after one minute and 50 seconds. The Referee shall sound the whistle immediately thereafter for play to start and for the play clock operator to start the 25-second clock. See 4-6-2.
Between the second and third periods, there shall be an intermission of 13 minutes. During this intermission, play is suspended, and teams may leave the field. The Back Judge will time halftime. See 13-1-1 for fouls by non- players between halves.
The stadium electric clock shall be the official time. The game clock operator shall start and stop the clock upon the signal of any official in accordance with the rules. The Side Judge shall supervise the timing of the game, and in case the stadium clock becomes inoperative, or if it is not being operated correctly, the Side Judge shall take over official timing on the field.
Note: Game officials can correct the game clock only before the next legal snap or kick, including an untimed down or try.
Both teams must be on the field to kick off at the scheduled time for the start of each half. Prior to the start of the game, both teams are required to appear on the field at least 10 minutes prior to the scheduled kickoff to ensure sufficient time for proper warm-up. Designated members of the officiating crew must notify both head coaches personally of the scheduled time for kickoff prior to the start of each half.
Not more than three minutes before the kickoff of the first half, the Referee, in the presence of both team’s captains (limit of six per team, active, inactive or honorary) shall toss a coin at the center of the field. Prior to the Referee’s toss, the call of “heads” or “tails” must be made by the captain of the visiting team, or by the captain designated by the Referee if there is no home team. Unless the winner of the toss defers his choice to the second half, he must choose one of two privileges, and the loser is given the other. The two privileges are:
If the coin does not turn over in the air or the toss is compromised in any way, the Referee shall toss it again. The captain’s original call may not be changed.
Penalty: For failure to comply: Loss of coin-toss option for both halves and overtime, and loss of 15 yards from the spot of the kickoff for the first half only.
For the second half, the captain who lost the pregame toss is to have the first choice of the two privileges listed in (a) or (b), unless one of the teams lost its first and second half options, or unless the winner of the pregame toss deferred his choice to the second half, in which case he must choose (a) or (b) above. Immediately prior to the start of the second half, the captains of both teams must inform the Referee of their respective choices.
A captain’s first choice from any alternative privileges listed above is final and not subject to change.
At the end of the first and third periods, the teams must change goals. Team possession, the number of the succeeding down, the relative position of the ball on the field of play, and the line to gain remain the same.
The game clock operator shall start the game clock (time in) after a free kick when the ball is legally touched in the field of play. The game clock shall not start if:
Following any timeout (3-37-1), the game clock shall be started on a scrimmage down when the ball is next snapped, except in the following situations:
The game clock operator shall start the game clock for a fair-catch kick down when the ball is kicked.
The game clock operator shall stop the game clock (timeout) upon a signal by any official or upon the operator’s own positive knowledge:
Note: No extension of the automatic timeouts in this section shall be allowed unless any player requests a team timeout, or the Referee orders a team timeout or suspends play.
The Referee shall suspend play while the ball is dead and declare a charged team timeout upon the request for a timeout by the head coach or any player (not a substitute) to any official. If an assistant coach signals for a timeout and it is inadvertently granted, the timeout will stand.
Item 1. Three Timeouts Allowed. A team is allowed three charged team timeouts during each half.
Item 2. Length of Timeouts. Charged team timeouts shall be two minutes in length, unless the timeout is not used by television for a commercial break. Timeouts shall be 30 seconds in length when the designated number of television commercials have been exhausted in a quarter, if it is a second charged team timeout in the same dead-ball period, or when the Referee so indicates.
Item 3. Consecutive Team Timeouts. Each team may be granted a charged team timeout during the same dead-ball period, but a second charged team timeout by either team during the same dead-ball period is prohibited. Such team timeouts may follow a Referee’s timeout or any automatic timeouts.
Penalty: When a team is granted a second timeout during the same dead-ball period, or a timeout after exhausting its three timeouts during a half: Loss of five yards.
Note: If an attempt is made to call a timeout in such situations, the officials shall not grant it, and play will continue. A penalty shall be enforced only if the timeout is erroneously granted. After enforcement, all normal rules regarding the game and play clock will apply.
Item 4. Unsportsmanlike Conduct. An attempt to call an excess team timeout or to call a second timeout in the same dead- ball period by Team B in an attempt to “freeze” a kicker, will be considered unsportsmanlike conduct and will subject the offending team to a 15-yard penalty (See 12-3). This will apply to field goal or Try attempts.
Note: If an attempt is made to call a timeout in such situations, the officials shall not grant a timeout; instead, play will continue, and a penalty will be called, with customary enforcement. If a timeout is inadvertently granted, the penalty shall also be enforced. See 12-3-1-w.
If an official determines a player to be injured, or if attendants from the bench come on the field to assist an injured player, an injury timeout will be called by the Referee. If the ATC Spotter identifies a player for medical attention, the rules pertaining to Injury Timeouts in Article 3 and Article 4 (c) apply.
When an injury timeout is called, the injured player must leave the game for the completion of one down. The player will be permitted to remain in the game if:
At the conclusion of an injury timeout, the game clock will start as if the injury timeout had not occurred. If either team takes, or is charged with, a timeout, the clock will start on the snap.
After the two-minute warning of a half, the following shall apply:
Penalty: For the second and each subsequent excess team timeout after the two-minute warning: Loss of five yards from the succeeding spot for delay of the game.
Provided that calling timeout is not in conflict with another rule, the Referee may suspend play and stop the clock (Referee’s timeout) at any time without penalty to either team when playing time is being consumed because of an unintentional delay. Such situations include, but are not limited to:
After a Referee’s timeout, the game clock will start pursuant to Rule 4, Section 3, as if the Referee’s timeout had not occurred.
The time remaining on the play clock shall be the same as when it stopped. See Rule 4, Section 6, Article 3.
It is a delay of the game if the ball is not put in play by a snap within 40 seconds after the start of the play clock. The play clock operator shall time the interval between plays upon signals from game officials. The 40-second interval starts when a play ends, unless Article 2 below applies.
In the event of certain administrative stoppages or other delays, a team will have 25 seconds, beginning with the Referee’s whistle, to put the ball in play next by a snap or a kick. Such stoppages include, but are not limited to:
A 25-second interval will be used in these situations, even if the 40-second clock is already counting down.
Note: Following a Try or successful field-goal attempt, unless there is a commercial break, the teams will have 40 seconds to align prior to the ball being made ready for play. When the 40 seconds have elapsed, the 25-second play clock will begin.
If the play clock is stopped prior to the snap for any reason, after the stoppage has concluded, the time remaining on the play clock shall be the same as when it stopped, unless:
If the ball is not put in play within the applicable period, the Back Judge shall blow his whistle for the foul, and the ball remains dead. See 14-4-1-Item 1.
Other examples of action or inaction that are to be construed as delay of the game include, but are not limited to:
Penalty: For delay of the game: Loss of five yards:
A team is not permitted to conserve time after the two-minute warning of either half by committing any of these acts:
Penalty: For Illegally Conserving Time: Loss of five yards unless a larger distance penalty is applicable.
When actions referred to above are committed by the offensive team while time is in, officials will run off 10 seconds from the game clock before permitting the ball to be put in play on the ready-for-play signal. The game clock will start on the ready-for- play signal unless another rule prescribes otherwise. If the offensive team has timeouts remaining, it will have the option of using a timeout in lieu of a 10-second runoff, in which case the game clock will start on the snap after the timeout. The defense always has the option to decline the 10-second runoff and have the yardage penalty enforced, but if the yardage penalty is declined, the 10-second runoff is also declined.
If the action is by the defense, the play clock will be reset to 40 seconds, and the game clock will start on the ready signal, unless the offense chooses to have the clock start on the snap. If the defense has timeouts remaining, it will have the option of using a timeout in lieu of the game clock being started.
After the two-minute warning of either half, if there is a violation of the substitution rule while the ball is dead and time is in, in addition to the applicable yardage penalty for illegal substitution, there will be a 10-second runoff pursuant to Article 1 above, unless it is obvious that the offensive team is not attempting to conserve time.
Penalty: For Illegal Substitution: Loss of five yards (unless a larger distance penalty is applicable) and a 10-second runoff.
In the last 40 seconds of either half, if there is a defensive foul prior to the snap while time is in, the half will end, unless the defense has timeouts remaining, or the offense chooses to have the Game Clock start on the snap.
If a replay review after the two-minute warning of either half results in the on-field ruling being reversed and the correct ruling would not have stopped the game clock, then the officials will run 10 seconds off the game clock before permitting the ball to be put in play on the ready-for-play signal. The defense cannot decline the runoff, but either team can use a remaining timeout to prevent it.
If time expires at the end of any period while the ball is in play, the period continues until the down ends.
At the election of the opponent, a period may be extended for one untimed down, if any of the following occurs during a down during which time in the period expires, or during which the period had been extended pursuant to this Article:
Exceptions: The half is not extended if:
If the first or third period is extended for any reason, or if a touchdown occurs during the last play of such a period, any additional play, including a Try attempt, shall be completed before the teams change goals.
There may be more than one untimed down at the end of a period pursuant to this Article.
The game is played by two teams of 11 players each.
If Team A has more than 11 players in its formation for more than three seconds, or if Team B has more than 11 players in its formation and the snap is imminent, it is a foul. Once the ball is made ready for play, if either team has more than 11 players in its formation prior to a free kick, it is also a foul. In these instances, game officials shall blow their whistles immediately and not allow the snap or kick to occur.
Penalty: For more than 11 players in the formation prior to the snap or free kick: Loss of five yards from the succeeding spot.
If a team has more than 11 players on the field of play or the end zone when a snap, free kick, or fair-catch kick is made, the ball is in play, and it is a foul.
Penalty: For more than 11 players on the field of play or the end zone while the ball is in play: Loss of five yards from the previous spot.
Note: It is not a foul if a team has fewer than 11 players on the field of play or the end zone when a snap, free kick, or fair- catch kick is made.
All players must wear numerals on their jerseys in accordance with Rule 5, Section 4, Article 3, Item 3. Such numerals must be by playing position, as follows:
If a player changes his position during his playing career in the NFL, and such change moves him from a position as an ineligible pass receiver to that of an eligible pass receiver, or from a position as an eligible pass receiver to that of an ineligible pass receiver, he must be issued an appropriate new jersey numeral. A change in jersey numeral is not required if the change is from an ineligible position to another ineligible position, or from an eligible position to another eligible position, provided that the player has participated at least one season at his position prior to the change.
Any request to wear a numeral for a special position not specified above (e.g., H-back) must be made to the Commissioner. During the preseason period when playing rosters are larger, the League will allow duplication and other temporary deviations from the numbering scheme specified above, but the rule must be adhered to for all players during the regular season and postseason. Clubs must make numerals available to adhere to the rule, even if it requires returning to circulation a numeral that has been retired or withheld for other reasons. See 5-3-1 for reporting a change of position.
There can never be more than 11 players in the offensive huddle while the play clock is running. It is a foul, the whistle is blown immediately, and the ball remains dead. See 5-2-8-a.
A substitute becomes a player when he:
A player becomes a substitute when he is withdrawn from the game and does not participate in at least one play. A play negated by penalty prior to the snap or during the play counts as a missed play.
Any number of substitutes may enter the field of play or the end zone while the ball is dead.
If a substitute enters the field of play or the end zone while the ball is in play, it is an illegal substitution. If an illegal substitute interferes with the play, it may be a palpably unfair act (see 12-3-4).
The following are applicable to any offensive substitute who is entering the game:
Note: The intent of the rule is to prevent teams from using simulated substitutions to confuse an opponent, while still permitting a player (or players) to enter and leave without participating in a play in certain situations, such as a change in a coaching decision on fourth down, even though he has approached the huddle and communicated with a teammate. Similarly, if a player who participated in the previous play leaves the playing field by mistake, and returns to the playing field prior to the snap, he is not required to reach the inside of the field numerals, provided the defense has the opportunity to match up with him. However, a substitute (i.e., someone who did not participate in the previous play) is required to reach the inside of the field numerals.
A player or players who have been replaced must leave the playing field or end zone on their own team’s side between the end lines prior to the next snap, free kick, or fair-catch kick.
A player must be withdrawn and substituted for when he is disqualified (12-2, 12-3) or suspended (5-4). A suspended player may re-enter after at least one legal snap, provided that the reason for his suspension has been corrected. A disqualified player must leave the playing field enclosure and go to the team locker room within a reasonable time.
Following a timeout or change of possession, the offense may huddle outside the numbers near its bench area, but will not be allowed to line up and snap the ball before the defense has an opportunity to match personnel. If the offense snaps the ball before the defense has had an opportunity to complete its substitutions, and a defensive foul for too many players on the field results, no penalties will be enforced, except for personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct fouls, and the down will be replayed. At this time, the Referee will notify the head coach that any further use of this tactic will result in a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Penalty: For Unsportsmanlike Conduct after a warning: Loss of 15 yards from the succeeding spot.
If a substitution is made by the offense, the offense shall not be permitted to snap the ball until the defense has been permitted to respond with its substitutions. While in the process of a substitution (or simulated substitution), the offense is prohibited from rushing quickly to the line of scrimmage and snapping the ball in an obvious attempt to cause a defensive foul (i.e., too many men on the field). If the offense substitutes, the following procedure will apply:
Note: The quick-snap rule does not apply after the two-minute warning of either half, or if there is not a substitution by the offense.
Using entering substitutes, legally returning players, substitutes on sidelines, or withdrawn players to confuse opponents, or lingering by players leaving the field when being replaced by a substitute, is unsportsmanlike conduct. See 12-3-1-l. The offense is prevented from sending simulated substitutions onto the field toward its huddle and returning them to the sideline without completing the substitution in an attempt to confuse the defense.
Penalty: For Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Loss of 15 yards from the succeeding spot.
An offensive player wearing the number of an ineligible pass receiver (50–79 and 90–99) is permitted to line up in the position of an eligible pass receiver (1–49 and 80–89), and an offensive player wearing the number of an eligible pass receiver is permitted to line up in the position of an ineligible pass receiver, provided that he immediately reports the change in his eligibility status to the Referee, who will inform the defensive team.
He must participate in such eligible or ineligible position as long as he is continuously in the game, but prior to each play he must again report his status to the Referee, who will inform the defensive team. The game clock shall not be stopped, and the ball shall not be put in play until the Referee takes his normal position.
Note: An offensive player wearing the number of an eligible pass receiver who reports as ineligible must line up within the normal five-player core formed by ineligible players. The player cannot be more than two players removed from the middle player of a seven-player line.
A player who has reported a change in his eligibility status to the Referee is permitted to return to a position indicated by the eligibility status of his number after:
Penalty: If a player fails to notify the Referee of a change in his status when required, or an offensive player with an eligible number reports as ineligible and lines up outside the tackle box: Loss of five yards for illegal substitution.
The Coach-to-Player system allows a member of the coaching staff in the bench area or the coaches’ booth to communicate to a designated offensive or defensive player with a speaker in his helmet. The communication begins once a game official has signaled a down to be over and is cut off when the play clock reaches 15 seconds or the ball is snapped, whichever occurs first.
Each offensive and defensive team is permitted no more than one player on the field with a speaker in his helmet. Each team is permitted to have a maximum of three active radio receivers to be used on offense by its quarterbacks, and a maximum of three active radio receivers to be used on defense by players who have been designated as a primary and backup users.
Clubs that have a player whose principal position is as a non-quarterback (e.g., wide receiver, running back) and who also is used as a quarterback from time to time must have two helmets for that player—one with and one without radio components.
When a quarterback enters the game for the first time, or re-enters the game if he has previously been in the game and removed, he must report to the Referee.
Whenever the backup defensive user enters or re-enters the game wearing a helmet with a speaker, he must report to the Umpire. If the primary defensive user subsequently re-enters the game wearing a helmet with a speaker, he must report to the Umpire. If the primary and backup players have been removed from the game, no other player may wear the radio speaker in his helmet. Teams must use other methods to communicate signals to their players.
It is not necessary that the offensive player with the speaker in his helmet receive the snap.
For special teams’ plays, only one player per team with a receiver will be permitted on the field.
All players that have radio components in their helmet must have a decal, supplied by the League, displayed on the midline of the rear of the helmet. Players who have speakers in their helmets must be identified in the Communication System section of the Game Day Administration Report that is submitted to the Referee or a member of his crew no later than one hour and 30 minutes prior to kickoff.
For additional requirements and policies pertaining to the system, including regulations for the storage of a backup helmet for a non-quarterback who is used as a quarterback, or for the backup defensive player’s helmet, please refer to the Policy Manual for Member Clubs/Game Operations.
Penalty: If a player fails to notify the Referee or Umpire of a change in his status when required: Loss of five yards for illegal substitution.
Throughout the game-day period while in view of the stadium and television audience, including during team pregame warm-ups, all players must dress in a professional manner under the uniform standards. The helmet and mandatory padding referenced in Article 3 below are intended to provide reasonable protection to a player while reasonably avoiding risk of injury to other players. The development of Playing Rules should be governed by this Article. Players generally must present an appearance that is appropriate to representing their individual clubs and the National Football League. The term uniform, as used in this policy, applies to every piece of equipment worn by a player, including helmet, shoulder pads, thigh pads, knee pads, and any other item of protective gear, and to every visible item of apparel, including but not limited to pants, jerseys, wristbands, gloves, stockings, shoes, visible undergarments, and accessories such as headwear worn under helmets and hand towels. All visible items worn on game day by players must be issued by the club or the League, or, if from outside sources, must have approval in advance by the League office.
Pursuant to the official colors established for each NFL club in the League Constitution and Bylaws, playing squads are permitted to wear only those colors or a combination of those colors for helmets, jerseys, pants, and stockings; provided that white is also an available color for jerseys and mandatory color for the lower portion of stockings. (See 5-3-3-Item 6, “Stockings,” below.) Each player on a given team must wear the same colors on his uniform as all other players on his team in the same game. Home clubs shall choose their jersey color (either white or official team color), and visiting clubs must wear the opposite. For preseason, regular season, or postseason games, the two competing teams may wear jerseys in their official colors (non-white), provided the Commissioner determines that such colors are of sufficient contrast.
All players must wear the equipment and uniform apparel listed below, which must be of a suitably protective nature and must be designed and produced by a professional football equipment manufacturer. All components recommended by the manufacturer must be present and must not be cut, reduced in size, or otherwise altered unless for medical reasons approved in advance by the Commissioner. During pregame team warm-ups, players may omit certain protective equipment at their option, except that helmets, shoulder pads, thigh pads, and knee pads must be worn.
Item 1. Helmet, Face Protectors. Helmet with all points of the chin strap (white only) fastened and facemask attached. Facemasks must not be more than ⅝-inch in diameter and must be made of rounded material; transparent materials are prohibited. Clear (transparent) plastic eye shields are optional. Tinted eye shields may be worn only after the League office is supplied with appropriate medical documentation and approval is subsequently granted. The League office has ﬁnal approval. No visible identiﬁcation of a manufacturer’s name or logo on the exterior of a helmet or on any attachment to a helmet is permitted unless provided for under a commercial arrangement between the League and manufacturer; in no event is identiﬁcation of any helmet manufacturer permitted on the visible surface of a rear cervical pad. All helmets must carry a small NFL shield logo on the rear lower-left exterior, and an approved warning label on the rear lower-right exterior. Both labels will be supplied in quantity by the League office.
Item 2. Jerseys. Jersey must cover all pads and other protective equipment worn on the torso and upper arms, and must be appropriately tailored to remain tucked into the uniform pants throughout the game. Tear-away jerseys are prohibited. Mesh jerseys with large ﬁshnet material (commonly referred to as “bullet-hole” or “port-hole” mesh) are also prohibited. Surnames of players in letters a minimum of 2½ inches high must be afﬁxed to the exterior of jerseys across the upper back above the numerals; nicknames are prohibited. All jerseys must carry a small NFL Shield logo at the middle of the yoke of the neck on the front of the garment. All fabrics must be approved by the League office prior to production.
Item 3. Numerals. Numerals on the back and front of jerseys as speciﬁed under NFL rules for the player’s speciﬁc position. Such numerals must be a minimum of 8 inches high and 4 inches wide, and their color must be in sharp contrast with the color of the jersey. Smaller numerals should be worn on the tops of the shoulders or upper arms of the jersey. Small numerals on the back of the helmet or on the uniform pants are optional.
Item 4. Pants. Pants must be worn over the entire knee area; pants shortened or rolled up to meet the stockings above the knee are prohibited. No part of the pants may be cut away unless an appropriate gusset or other device is used to replace the removed material. All pants must carry a small NFL Shield logo on the front left groin area of the pants, midway between the ﬂy opening and side seam, and ½-inch below the belt.
Item 5. Shoulder Pads, Thigh Pads, and Knee Pads. Shoulder pads, thigh pads, and knee pads which have been approved by the League office. All pads must be covered by the outer uniform. Knee pads must be at least ¼-inch thick and must cover the knees. Basketball-type knee pads are permitted, but must be covered by the outer uniform. Punters and placekickers may omit thigh and knee pads.
Item 6. Stockings. Stockings must cover the entire area from the shoe to the bottom of the pants, and must meet the pants below the knee. Players are permitted to wear as many layers of stockings and tape on the lower leg as they prefer, provided the exterior is either a: (a) one-piece stocking that includes solid white from the top of the shoe to the mid-point of the lower leg, and approved team color or colors (non-white) from that point to the top of the stocking; or (b) solid color stocking (i.e., entire stocking from bottom of pant leg to top of shoe), but all players must be in the same stocking style and color in any particular game. Solid stockings must be a consistent color from the bottom of the pant leg to the top of the shoe. Uniform stockings may not be altered (e.g., over-stretched, cut at the toes, or sewn short) in order to bring the line between solid white and team colors lower or higher than the mid-point of the lower leg. No other stockings and/or opaque tape may be worn over the one-piece, two-color uniform stocking. Barefoot punters and placekickers may omit the stocking of the kicking foot in preparation for and during kicking plays.
Item 7. Shoes. Shoes must be of standard football design, including “sneaker” type shoes such as basketball shoes, cross-training shoes, etc. A player may wear shoes that are black, white, or any Constitutional team color, or any combination of black, white, and a Constitutional team color. Each player may select among shoe styles previously approved by the League office. Logos, names, or other commercial identification on shoes are not permitted to be visible unless advance approval is granted by the League office. Size and location of logos and names on shoes must be approved by the League office. When a shoe logo or name approved by the League is covered with an appropriate use of tape, players will be allowed to cut out the tape covering the original logo or name, provided the cut is clean and is the exact size of the logo or name. The logo or name of the shoe manufacturer must not be re-applied to the exterior of taped shoes unless advance approval is granted by the League office. Kicking shoes must not be modiﬁed (including using a shoelace wrapped around toe and/or bottom of the shoe), and any shoe that is worn by a player with an artiﬁcial limb on his kicking leg must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe. Punters and placekickers may omit the shoe from the kicking foot in preparation for and during kicking plays.
In addition to the prohibited items of equipment and apparel speciﬁed above, the following also are prohibited:
Item 1. Projecting Objects. Metal or other hard objects that project from a player’s person or uniform, including from his shoes.
Item 2. Uncovered Hard objects, Substances. Hard objects, exposed jewelry, and substances, including but not limited to casts, guards or braces for hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, hip, thigh, knee, and shin, unless such items are appropriately covered on all edges and surfaces by a minimum of ⅜-inch foam rubber or similar soft material. Any such item worn to protect an injury must be reported by the applicable coaching staff to the Umpire in advance of the game, and a description of the injury must be provided.
Item 3. Detachable Kicking Toe.
Item 4. Torn Items. Torn or improperly ﬁtting equipment creating a risk of injury to other players, e.g., the hard surfaces of shoulder pads exposed by a damaged jersey.
Item 5. Improper Cleats. Shoe cleats made of aluminum or other material that may chip, fracture, or develop a cutting edge. Conical cleats with concave sides or points which measure less than ⅜-inch in diameter at the tips, or cleats with oblong ends which measure less than ¼ by ¾-inch at the end tips are also prohibited. Nylon cleats with ﬂat steel tips are permitted.
Item 6. Improper Tape. Opaque, contrasting-color tape that covers any part of the helmet, jersey, pants, stockings, or shoes; transparent tape or tape of the same color as the background material is permissible for use on these items of apparel. Players may use opaque white, black or one dominant club color tape on hands and arms, provided it conforms to above (“Uncovered Hard Objects, Substances”) and below (“Approved Glove Color”). Opaque tape either black or white on shoes is permitted, provided it is black or white to match the selected dominant shoe choice of the Club, and provided it does not carry up into the stocking area.
Item 7. Items Colored Like Football. Headgear or any other equipment or apparel which, in the opinion of the Referee, may confuse an opponent because of its similarity in color to that of the game football. If such color is worn, it must be broken by stripes or other patterns of sharply contrasting color or colors.
Item 8. Adhesive, Slippery Substances. Adhesive or slippery substances on the body, equipment, or uniform of any player; provided, however, that players may wear gloves with a tackiﬁed surface if such tacky substance does not adhere to the football or otherwise cause handling problems for players.
It is recommended that all players wear hip pads designed to reasonably avoid the risk of injury. Unless otherwise provided by individual team policy, it is the players’ responsibility and decision whether to follow this recommendation and use such pads. If worn, such pads must be covered by the outer uniform.
Among the types of optional equipment that are permitted to be worn by players are the following:
Item 1. Garments Under Jerseys. Quarterbacks will be allowed to wear under the game jersey a solid colored T-shirt, turtleneck, or sweatshirt (consistent with team undergarment color) with sleeves cut to any length, as long as both sleeves are evenly trimmed and the edges are sewn and hemmed. All other players may wear garments under game jerseys only if the undergarment sleeves either (a) are full length to the wrist; or (b) are the half sleeve length as provided by the licensee each of which must be approved by the NFL. Players may not wear long-sleeved undergarments that include pebble-grip sleeves. Any garments under jerseys that are exposed at the neck or sleeve area and that carry an exposed logo or commercial name/identification must be licensed and approved by the League office for wear on the field. Undergarments must be tucked in and not hanging out from the bottom of the jersey. All members of the same team who wear approved undergarments with exposed necks or sleeves must wear the same color on a given day, which color must be white or a solid color that is an official team color (solid means that sleeves must not carry stripes, designs, or team names). Players may not wear undergarments with an exposed hood hanging outside the collar of the jersey.
Item 2. Approved Glove Color. Gloves, wrappings, elbow pads, and other items worn on the arms below or over the jersey sleeves by interior offensive linemen (excluding tight ends) must be of the color that is mandatorily reported to the League office by the club before July 1 each year. Such reported color must be white, black or other official uniform color of the applicable team, and, once reported, must not be changed throughout that same season. Players at other positions (non-interior linemen) also may wear gloves provided they are either (i) a solid white, solid black, or a solid color that is an official uniform color of the applicable club, (ii) a bi-color combination of black or white with one (1) official uniform color of the applicable team, or (iii) a tri-color combination of black or white, and/or up to two official uniform colors of the applicable club. For clubs with a third official uniform color, player (non-interior linemen) gloves may also incorporate a third official uniform color as an accent only. Clubs are not required to designate to the League office by July 1, the color of gloves that will be worn by their non-interior linemen.
Item 3. Rib Protectors. Rib protectors (“ﬂak jackets”) under the jersey.
Item 4. Wristbands. Wristbands, provided they are white or black only.
Item 5. Towels. Towels, provided they are white licensed towels approved by the League office for use on the playing field. Players are prohibited from adding to these towels personal messages, logos, names, symbols, or illustrations. Such towels also must be attached to or tucked into the front waist of the pants, and must be no longer than 6 by 8 inches (slightly larger size may be issued to quarterbacks, or may be folded to these limits for wearing in games). A player may wear no more than one towel. Players are prohibited from discarding on the playing field any loose towels or other materials used for wiping hands and the football. Streamers or ribbons, regardless of length, hanging from any part of the uniform, including the helmet, are prohibited.
Item 6. Headwear. When players are on the field, during the pregame, game, and postgame periods, they may wear approved caps, skull caps and bands, approved cold weather gear, or other approved headwear for medical purposes only, as determined by the Commissioner. Any permissible headwear must be approved by the League office, and if worn under the helmet, no portion may hang from or otherwise be visible outside the helmet. Players are not permitted to wear bandannas, stockings, or other unapproved headwear anywhere on the field during the pregame, game, or postgame periods, even if such items are worn under their helmets.
Throughout the period on game-day that a player is visible to the stadium and television audience (including in pregame warm-ups, in the bench area, and during postgame interviews in the locker room or on the field), players are prohibited from wearing, displaying, or orally promoting equipment, apparel, or other items that carry commercial names or logos/identifications of companies, unless such commercial identification has been approved in advance by the League office. The size of any approved logo or other commercial identification involved in an agreement between a manufacturer and the League will be modest and unobtrusive, and there is no assurance that it will be visible to the television audience.
Throughout the period on game-day that a player is visible to the stadium and television audience (including in pregame warm-ups, in the bench area, and during postgame interviews in the locker room or on the ﬁeld), players are prohibited from wearing, displaying, or otherwise conveying personal messages either in writing or illustration, unless such message has been approved in advance by the League office. Items to celebrate anniversaries or memorable events, or to honor or commemorate individuals, such as helmet decals, and arm bands and jersey patches on players’ uniforms, are prohibited unless approved in advance by the League office. All such items approved by the League office, if any, must relate to team or League events or personages. The League will not grant permission for any club or player to wear, display, or otherwise convey messages, through helmet decals, arm bands, jersey patches, or other items afﬁxed to game uniforms or equipment, which relate to political activities or causes, other non-football events, causes or campaigns, or charitable causes or campaigns. Further, any such approved items must be modest in size, tasteful, non-commercial, and non-controversial; must not be worn for more than one football season; and if approved for use by a speciﬁc team, must not be worn by players on other teams in the League.
Consistent with the equipment and uniform rules, players must otherwise present a professional and appropriate appearance while before the public on game-day. Among the types of activity that are prohibited are use of tobacco products (smokeless included) while in the bench area and use of facial makeup.
For violation of this Section 4 discovered during pregame warm-ups or at other times prior to the game, player will be advised to make appropriate correction; if the violation is not corrected, player will not be permitted to enter the game.
For violation of this Section 4 that is discovered while player is in the game, and which involves the competitive or player safety aspects of the game (e.g., illegal kicking toe of shoe, an adhesive or slippery substance, failure to wear mandatory equipment), player will be removed from the game until he has complied.
For any other violation of this Section 4 (e.g., wristbands that are not League-approved, towel with a personal message, impermissible headwear under the helmet) that is discovered while the player is in the game, player will be advised to make appropriate correction at the next change of possession; if the violation is not corrected, player will not be permitted to enter the game.
For violation of this Section 4 detected in the bench area: Player and head coach will be asked to remove the objectionable item, properly equip the player, or otherwise correct the violation. The involved player or players will not be permitted to enter the game until the player has complied.
For illegal entry or return of a player suspended under this Section 4: Loss of five yards from succeeding spot and removal until properly equipped after one down. See 3-33.
For repeat violation: Disqualification from game.
A free kick is a kickoff or safety kick that puts the ball in play to start a free kick down. It must be made from any point on the kicking team’s restraining line and between the inbounds lines.
Note: During a placekick on a kickoff, the kicking team may use a manufactured tee that is one inch in height and approved by the League. Once the ball has been placed on the kicking tee, the kicking tee cannot be moved. If the ball falls off the tee, the covering officials must stop play and restart the timing process without penalty to the kicking team. If the ball falls off the tee a second time during the same free kick down, the kicking team then must either use a player to hold the ball or must kick it off the ground. The ball may be placed on the ground leaning against the tee, provided the tee is in its normal upright position.
Penalty: For illegal kick on a free kick down: Loss of five yards.
The restraining lines for a free kick shall be as follows, unless they are adjusted because of a distance penalty:
When the ball is kicked on a free kick down:
Note: A holder for a free kick counts as one of the required five players on either side of the ball, regardless of where he is positioned. The holder is never counted as one of the required two players between the inbounds line and the top (inside) of the numbers, regardless of where he is positioned.
Penalty: For a player being beyond the restraining line when the ball is kicked (offside), a player being out of bounds when the ball is kicked, or either team being in an illegal formation when the ball is kicked: Loss of five yards.
Penalty: For voluntarily going out of bounds without contact: Loss of 5 yards.
The following applies to the catch or recovery of a free kick:
It is a touchback, if a free kick:
A free kick ends when either team possesses the ball, or when the ball is dead, if that precedes possession. A running play begins when the receiving team establishes possession of the ball.
Item 1. Kicking Team.
During the kick, the kicking team is subject to the blocking restrictions of the defense.
For the exception prohibiting a block in the back by the kicking team while the ball is in flight, see 12-1-3-b-Note.
Item 2. Receiving Team
Penalty: For illegal blocking or use of hands by either team: Loss of 10 yards.
Penalty: For an illegal wedge block or an illegal double-team block: Loss of 15 yards. If the foul occurs during the kick, enforcement is from the spot of the foul. If the foul occurs during the return, the penalty is enforced as customary. If the foul occurs in the receiving team’s end zone during the kick, it is enforced from the previous spot.
A player of the receiving team is not permitted to run into the kicker before he recovers his balance. See also 12-2-8-h for personal fouls against the kicker.
Penalty: For running into the kicker: Loss of five yards.
The kicking team may not kick the ball out of bounds or be the last to touch the ball before it goes out of bounds between the goal lines. If the receiving team is the last to touch the ball before it goes out of bounds, the receiving team puts the ball in play at the inbounds spot.
Penalty: For a kickoff out of bounds: The receiving team may elect to take possession of the ball 25 yards from the spot of the kick or at the out-of-bounds spot.
Penalty: For a safety kick out of bounds: The receiving team may elect to take possession of the ball 30 yards from the spot of the kick or at the out-of-bounds spot.
Item 1. Ball Reaches Restraining Line. A player of the kicking team may not touch, catch, or recover the ball before it has reached the receiving team’s restraining line, unless it has first been touched by a receiving team player.
Penalty: For illegal touching of a free kick by the kicking team: Loss of five yards, or the receiving team takes possession of the ball at the spot of the illegal touch.
Item 2. Player Out of Bounds. If a kicking team player goes out of bounds during the kick, he may not touch or recover the ball beyond the receiving team’s restraining line, unless it has first been touched by a receiving team player. If a kicking team player touches the ball before re-establishing himself legally inbounds, it is a free kick out of bounds.
Penalty: For illegal touching of a free kick by the kicking team: Loss of five yards.
If there is a foul during a free kick, enforcement is from the previous spot, and the free kick is made again. However, if the kicking team commits a foul prior to the end of the kick, and the receiving team retains possession throughout the down, it will have the option of enforcing the penalty at the previous spot and replaying the down or adding the penalty yardage to the dead-ball spot.
After the ball has been declared ready for play, it becomes a live ball when it is legally snapped or legally kicked (a free kick or fair catch kick). The ball remains dead if it is snapped or kicked before it is made ready for play.
An official shall declare the ball dead and the down ended:
Note: The game clock will not stop when this occurs, and the play clock will be reset to 40 seconds. Penalty enforcement following the play is as ordinary for fouls during runs or kicks.
The ball is not dead because it touches an official who is inbounds, or because of a signal by an official other than a whistle.
A new series of four scrimmage downs is awarded to Team A when the following conditions exist:
A new series of four scrimmage downs is awarded to Team B when the following conditions exist:
The forward part of the ball in its position when it is declared dead in the field of play shall be the determining point in measuring any distance gained or lost. The ball shall be rotated so that its long axis is parallel to the sidelines before measuring, while maintaining the forward most point.
Note: When an airborne player of either team completes a catch or interception inbounds after an opponent has driven him backward, the ball is declared dead, and forward progress is awarded at the spot where initial contact by the opponent was made after the player established firm grip and control of the ball while in the air.
After the neutral zone has been established (ball is made or declared ready for play), an offensive player may not make a false start, a defensive player may not encroach (initiate contact with a member of the offensive team) or commit a neutral zone infraction, and no player of either team may be offside when the ball is put in play.
It is a False Start if the ball has been placed ready for play, and, prior to the snap, an offensive player who has assumed a set position charges or moves in such a way as to simulate the start of a play, or if an offensive player who is in motion makes a sudden movement toward the line of scrimmage. Any quick abrupt movement by a single offensive player, or by several offensive players in unison, which simulates the start of the snap, is a false start.
Exception: This does not apply to an offensive player under the center who turns his head or shoulders, unless the movement is an obvious attempt to draw an opponent offside.
Note: See 4-6-5-d, for actions by a defensive player who attempts to cause an offensive player to commit a false start.
Item 1. Interior Lineman. It is a False Start if an interior lineman (tackle to tackle) takes or simulates a three-point stance, and then changes his position or moves the hand that is on the ground.
An interior lineman who is in a two-point stance is permitted to reset in a three-point stance or change his position, provided that he comes to a complete stop prior to the snap. If he does not come to a complete stop prior to the snap, it is a False Start.
Item 2. Eligible Receiver. If all 11 offensive players have been set for at least one full second, and an eligible receiver who is on the line of scrimmage moves forward, it is a False Start, regardless of whether the action is quick and abrupt or slow and deliberate.
If an eligible receiver who is on the line of scrimmage moves backward immediately prior to the snap and does not come to a complete stop before the snap, it is a False Start.
Any eligible receiver is permitted to change from a two-point stance to a three-point stance, or from a three-point stance to a two-point stance, provided he comes to a complete stop prior to the snap. If he does not come to a complete stop, it is a False Start.
Item 3. Player Under Center. It is legal for a player who has taken a position under or behind the center to go in motion, whether he has placed his hands under center, on his knees, or on the body of the center. However, it is a False Start, if the action is quick and abrupt. If the player fails to come to a complete stop for at least one full second prior to the ball being snapped, it is Illegal Motion.
Item 4. Shotgun Formation. A player who is in position to receive the snap in shotgun formation is permitted to shift his feet prior to the snap, but any quick and abrupt movement is a False Start. This includes thrusting his hands forward when there is not a simultaneous snap.
Item 5. Attempt to Draw Offside. Any obvious attempt by the quarterback or other player in position to receive the snap to draw an opponent offside is a False Start.
Item 6. Offense Not Set. With the game clock running after the two-minute warning of either half, if all 11 offensive players are not set simultaneously for one full second prior to the snap, it is a False Start.
Penalty: For a False Start: Loss of five yards from the line of scrimmage. The foul is enforced prior to the snap.
Note: The official shall blow the whistle immediately. The penalty for a False Start shall be enforced regardless of whether the snap is made or there is a reaction by the defense.
It is Encroachment if a defensive player enters the neutral zone and contacts an offensive player or the ball prior to the snap, or if he interferes with the ball during the snap. The play is dead immediately.
Penalty: For Encroachment: Loss of five yards from the line of scrimmage. The foul is enforced prior to the snap.
It is a Neutral Zone Infraction when:
Note: During the last two minutes of a half, after the ball has been spotted for the succeeding down at the line of scrimmage and the offense is legally set, if the ball is snapped before all members of the defensive team are on their side of the line of scrimmage, play shall be stopped immediately, and the defensive team penalized five yards for a neutral zone infraction.
Penalty: For a Neutral Zone Infraction: Loss of five yards from line of scrimmage. Foul is enforced prior to snap.
A player is offside when any part of his body is in or beyond the neutral zone or beyond a restraining line when the ball is put in play.
Penalty: For offside: Loss of five yards.
All offensive players are required to come to a complete stop and be in a set position simultaneously for at least one full second prior to the snap. Failure to do so is an Illegal Shift. (See 7-4-2-Item 6 for such a foul after the two-minute warning of either half.)
The offensive team is permitted to shift and have two or more players in motion multiple times before the snap. However, after the last shift, all players must come to a complete stop and be in a set position simultaneously for at least one full second.
If any eligible backfield player goes in motion (one at a time) after the last shift and comes to a complete stop, there is no requirement for a full second pause before a second player can legally go in motion.
However, if the first player has not come to a complete stop when the second player goes in motion, it is another shift and requires another simultaneous stop for at least one full second by all players.
It is also an illegal shift if a player under or behind center goes in motion and fails to come to a complete stop for at least one full second before a second player goes in motion.
Note: The offensive team must present a legal formation both before and after a shift.
Penalty: For an illegal shift: Loss of five yards.
When the ball is snapped, one player who is lined up in the backfield may be in motion, provided that he is moving parallel to or away from the line of scrimmage. No player is permitted to be moving toward the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. All other players must be stationary in their positions.
If an eligible receiver who is on the line moves to another position on the line (not forward), he must come to a complete stop prior to the snap. If he does not come to a complete stop, it is Illegal Motion.
It is also Illegal Motion if a player under or behind center goes in motion and fails to come to a complete stop for at least one full second prior to the snap.
Penalty: For a player illegally in motion at the snap: Loss of five yards.
The offensive team must be in compliance with the following at the snap:
Note: Offensive linemen may lock legs.
Penalty: For illegal formation by the offense: Loss of five yards.
The offensive team must put the ball in play with a snap at the spot where the previous down ended, unless the enforcement of a penalty moves the ball to another spot or the down ended outside the inbounds lines. If a fair-catch kick is chosen after a fair catch, 10-2-1 and 11-4-3 apply.
The snap (3-32) may be made by any offensive player who is on the line of scrimmage but must conform to the following provisions:
Penalty: For illegally snapping the ball: Loss of five yards from the line of scrimmage.
A snap is a backward pass. The snap must be received by a player who is not on the line at the snap, unless the ball first strikes the ground. If the ball first strikes the ground, or is muffed by an eligible backfield receiver, or quarterback under center, it can be recovered and advanced by any player.
Penalty: For snapping the ball to an ineligible snap receiver: Loss of five yards from the line of scrimmage. The whistle shall be blown immediately.
It is a forward pass if:
Note: A ball that is intentionally fumbled and goes forward is a forward pass. A ball that is intentionally muffed, and goes forward or backward, is a batted ball (12-5-1-Note).
Item 1. Forward Movement of Hand
When a player is in control of the ball and is attempting to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his hand starts a forward pass.
The offensive team may make one forward pass from behind the line during each down. If the ball, whether in player possession or loose, crosses the line of scrimmage, a forward pass is not permissible, regardless of whether the ball returns behind the line of scrimmage before the pass is thrown.
Item 1. Illegal Passes. Any other forward pass by either team is illegal and is a foul by the passing team, including:
Item 2. Intercepted Illegal Pass. If an illegal pass is caught or intercepted, the ball may be advanced and the penalty declined.
For a forward pass from beyond the line: Loss of down and five yards from the spot of the pass. See S.N. below.
For a second forward pass from behind the line, or for a forward pass that was thrown after the ball returned behind the line: Loss of five yards from the previous spot.
For a forward pass that is thrown after a change of possession: Loss of five yards from the spot of the pass.
A player who makes a catch may advance the ball. A forward pass is complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) in the field of play, at the sideline, or in the end zone if a player, who is inbounds:
Any forward pass (legal or illegal) is incomplete and the ball is dead immediately if the pass strikes the ground or goes out of bounds. An incomplete pass is a loss of down, and the ball returns to the previous spot.
Note: If there is any question whether a forward pass is complete, intercepted, or incomplete, it is to be ruled incomplete.
The following players are eligible to catch a forward pass that is thrown from behind the line of scrimmage.
All offensive players other than those identified in Article 5 above are ineligible to catch a legal or illegal forward pass thrown from behind the line of scrimmage, including:
A forward pass (legal or illegal) thrown from behind the line may be touched by any eligible player. A pass in flight may be tipped, batted, or deflected in any direction by any eligible player at any time, including such a pass in the end zone.
It is a foul for illegal touching if a forward pass (legal or illegal) thrown from behind the line of scrimmage:
Penalty: Loss of five yards at the previous spot.
Penalty: Loss of down at the previous spot.
It is a foul for intentional grounding if a passer, facing an imminent loss of yardage because of pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion. A realistic chance of completion is defined as a pass that is thrown in the direction of and lands in the vicinity of an originally eligible offensive receiver.
Item 1. Passer or Ball Outside Tackle Position. Intentional grounding will not be called when a passer, who is outside, or has been outside, the tackle position, throws a forward pass that lands at or beyond the line of scrimmage, even if no offensive player(s) have a realistic chance to catch the ball (including when the ball lands out of bounds over the sideline or endline). If the ball crosses the line of scrimmage (extended) beyond the sideline, there is no intentional grounding. If a loose ball leaves the area bordered by the tackles, this area no longer exists; if the ball is recovered, all intentional grounding rules apply as if the passer is outside this area.
Item 2. Physical Contact. Intentional grounding should not be called if:
Item 3. Stopping Clock. A player under center is permitted to stop the game clock legally to save time if, immediately upon receiving the snap, he begins a continuous throwing motion and throws the ball directly into the ground.
Item 4. Delayed Spike. A passer, after delaying his passing action for strategic purposes, is prohibited from throwing the ball to the ground in front of him, even though he is under no pressure from defensive rusher(s).
Penalty: For intentional grounding:
On a scrimmage play during which a legal forward pass is thrown, an ineligible offensive player, including a T-formation quarterback, is not permitted to move more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage before the pass has been thrown.
Item 1. Legally Downfield. An ineligible player is not illegally downfield if, after initiating contact with an opponent within one yard of the line of scrimmage during his initial charge:
Item 2. Illegally Downfield. An ineligible offensive player is illegally downfield if:
Penalty: For ineligible offensive player downfield: Loss of five yards from the previous spot.
After the ball leaves the passer’s hand, ineligible pass receivers can advance more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage, or beyond the position reached by their initial charge, provided that they do not block or contact a defensive player, who is more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage, until the ball is touched by a player of either team. Such prior blocking and/or contact is pass interference if it occurs in the vicinity of where the ball is thrown. See 8-3-1-Note above for exception when blocker maintains continuous contact.
Within the area five yards beyond the line of scrimmage, a defensive player may chuck an eligible receiver in front of him. The defender is allowed to maintain continuous and unbroken contact within the five-yard zone, so long as the receiver has not moved beyond a point that is even with the defender.
Within the five-yard zone, if the player who receives the snap remains in the pocket with the ball, a defender may not make original contact in the back of a receiver, nor may he maintain contact after the receiver has moved beyond a point that is even with the defender.
Note: If a defender contacts a receiver within the five-yard zone of the line of scrimmage, loses contact, and then contacts him again within the five-yard zone, it is a foul for illegal contact.
Beyond the five-yard zone, if the player who receives the snap remains in the pocket with the ball, a defender cannot initiate contact with a receiver who is attempting to evade him. A defender may use his hands or arms only to defend or protect himself against impending contact caused by a receiver.
Note: If a defender contacts a receiver within the five-yard zone and maintains contact with him, he must release the receiver as they exit the five-yard zone. If the defender maintains contact beyond five yards, it is illegal contact.
Beyond the five-yard zone, incidental contact may exist between receiver and defender.
Penalty: For illegal contact by the defense: Loss of five yards and automatic first down.
It is an Illegal Cut Block if:
Penalty: For illegal cut block: Loss of 15 yards and automatic first down.
It is defensive holding if a player grasps an eligible offensive player (or his jersey) with his hands, or extends an arm or arms to cut off or encircle him. See 12-1-6.
Penalty: For holding by the defense: Loss of five yards and automatic first down.
Note: Any offensive player who pretends to possess the ball, and/or one to whom a teammate pretends to give the ball, may be tackled until he crosses the line of scrimmage between the offensive tackles of a normal tight offensive line.
If the quarterback or the receiver of the snap demonstrates no further intention to pass the ball (i.e., hands off or pitches the ball to another player, throws a forward or backward pass, loses possession of the ball by a muff that touches the ground or a fumble, or if he is tackled) the restrictions on the defensive team prohibiting illegal contact, or an illegal cut block, against an eligible receiver will end, and a defensive player is permitted to use his hands, arms, or body to push, pull, or ward off an offensive receiver, pursuant to Rule 12, Section 1, Article 5. If the quarterback leaves the pocket area with the ball in his possession, the restrictions on illegal contact and an illegal cut block both end, but the restriction on defensive holding remains in effect.
If a team presents an apparent punting formation, defensive acts that normally constitute illegal contact (chuck beyond five yards, etc.) are permitted, provided that the acts do not constitute defensive holding.
It is pass interference by either team when any act by a player more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage significantly hinders an eligible player’s opportunity to catch the ball. Pass interference can only occur when a forward pass is thrown from behind the line of scrimmage, regardless of whether the pass is legal or illegal, or whether it crosses the line.
Defensive pass interference rules apply from the time the ball is thrown until the ball is touched. See Article 2 for prohibited acts while the ball is in the air.
Offensive pass interference rules apply from the time the ball is snapped until the ball is touched. See Article 2 for prohibited acts while the ball is in the air and Article 4 for prohibited acts prior to the pass.
Acts that are pass interference include, but are not limited to:
Acts that are permissible by a player include, but are not limited to:
Blocking more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage by an offensive player prior to a pass being thrown is offensive pass interference. See 8-3-1-Item 1 for exception for an ineligible offensive player.
Note: It is also pass interference by the offense to block a defender beyond the line while the pass is in the air, if the block occurs in the vicinity of the player to whom the pass is thrown. See 8-3-1-Note for exception for ineligible players.
Penalty: For pass interference by the defense: First down for the offensive team at the spot of the foul. If the interference is also a personal foul (12-2), the 15-yard penalty for such a foul is also enforced, either from the spot of the foul (for interference), or from the end of the run if the foul for pass interference is declined. If the interference is behind the defensive goal line, it is first down for the offensive team on the defense’s one-yard line, or, if the previous spot was inside the two-yard line, halfway between the previous spot and the goal line.
Penalty: For pass interference by the offense: Loss of 10 yards from the previous spot.
If there is a foul by either team from the time of the snap until a forward pass thrown from behind the line ends, the penalty is enforced from the previous spot. A pass play ends and a running play begins at the instant that a pass is caught.
A runner may throw a backward pass at any time (3-22-5). Players of either team may advance after catching a backward pass, or recovering a backward pass after it touches the ground.
Exception: See actions to conserve time (4-7-1).
Note: A direct snap from center to a player in the backfield, a muffed hand-to-hand snap, or a snap that is untouched by any player are backward passes, and the ball remains alive.
If a backward pass goes out of bounds between the goal lines, the ball is dead (7-6-2-a), and it is next put in play at the inbounds spot. Rule 11 governs if a backward pass is declared dead behind the goal line.
A fumble is any act, other than a pass or kick, which results in a loss of player possession.
Exception: If a runner intentionally fumbles forward, it is a forward pass (3-22).
Item 1. Recovery and Advance. Any player of either team may recover or catch a fumble and advance, either before or after the ball strikes the ground.
Item 2. Legal Recovery. For a legal recovery of a fumble, see 3-2-7.
Item 3. Out of Bounds. When a fumble goes out of bounds between the goal lines, the following shall apply:
Item 4. Out of Bounds in End Zone. When a fumble goes out of bounds in the end zone, the following shall apply:
No player may hand the ball forward except to an eligible receiver who is behind the line of scrimmage.
Penalty: For handing ball forward beyond the line of scrimmage: Five yards and loss of down from spot of foul.
Penalty: For handing ball forward to ineligible receiver behind line of scrimmage or not from scrimmage: Loss of five yards.
If a fourth-down fumble occurs during a play from scrimmage:
If a fumble by either team occurs after the two-minute warning:
Team A may attempt a punt, drop kick, or placekick from on or behind the line of scrimmage.
Penalty: For a punt, drop kick, or placekick that is kicked from beyond the line of scrimmage or not from scrimmage: Loss of 10 yards from the spot of the kick.
During a kick from scrimmage, only the end men (eligible receivers) on the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap, or an eligible receiver who is aligned or in motion behind the line and is more than one yard outside the end man, are permitted to advance more than one yard beyond the line before the ball is kicked.
Penalty: For advancing more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage before the ball is kicked: Loss of five yards.
Item 1. Punt Formation. When Team A presents a punt formation:
Penalty: For illegal formation by the defense: Loss of five yards.
Penalty: For pushing teammates into offensive formation: Loss of 15 yards.
Note: The restriction in (1) above does not apply if a team does not present a standard punt formation (an equal number of players on either side of the snapper in a tight formation, and one player split out wide to either side), or if, after the offensive team has assumed a set position, there is a shift, or a player goes in motion.
Item 2: Field Goal or Try Kick Formation. When Team A presents a field goal or Try Kick formation:
Penalty: For illegal formation by the defense: Loss of five yards.
Penalty: For pushing teammates into offensive formation: Loss of 15 yards.
Note: The restrictions in (1) and (2) above do not apply if a team does not present a standard field goal or Try Kick formation (an equal number of players on either side of the snapper in a tight formation), or if, after the offensive team has assumed a set position, there is a shift, or a player goes in motion.
The following blocking rules apply during a scrimmage kick down:
During a scrimmage kick that crosses the line of scrimmage, and prior to the end of the kick, it is a foul if a kicking team player goes out of bounds voluntarily (without being contacted by a receiving team player) to avoid a block by a receiving team player.
Penalty: Loss of five yards.
If a member of the kicking team is forced out of bounds, or goes out of bounds voluntarily, and does not attempt to return inbounds in a reasonable amount of time, it is a foul for Unsportsmanlike Conduct. (12-3-1-v)
Any touching of the ball behind the line of scrimmage by a kicking team player is legal, even if the ball has crossed the line and returns behind the line.
“First touching” is when a player of the kicking team touches a scrimmage kick in the field of play that is beyond the line of scrimmage before it has been touched by a player of the receiving team beyond the line. If the ball is first touched by a player of the kicking team, it remains in play. First touching is a violation, and the receivers shall have the option of taking possession of the ball at the spot of first touching, provided no live-ball penalty is accepted on the play, or at the spot where the ball is dead. First touching does not offset a foul by the receivers; if there is a live-ball foul by the receivers that is enforced, either before or after the first touching violation, the violation is disregarded, and the penalty is enforced as customary.
A player of the kicking team, who has been out of bounds, may not touch or recover a scrimmage kick beyond the line of scrimmage until it has been touched by a kicking team player who has not been out of bounds, or until it has been touched by a player of the receiving team beyond the line.
Note: If a player touches or recovers the ball before he has re-established himself inbounds, the ball is out of bounds at the spot of the touch, and there is no foul.
Penalty: For illegal touching of a scrimmage kick: Loss of five yards. If the illegal touching is inside the receiver’s five- yard line, in addition to the other specified options, the receiving team may elect to take a touchback.
There is no distinction between a player touching a ball or being touched by it, but a player is not considered to have touched the ball if he is blocked into it by an opponent, provided he is in a passive position and not blocking. A player who is engaged with and blocking his opponent when he contacts the ball is deemed to have touched the ball.
A receiving team player is deemed to have not touched the ball if it is batted or illegally kicked into him by an opponent. Such touching by the receiving team is disregarded, though the bat or kick could create a first touching violation or a foul for an illegal bat or illegal kick.
When a scrimmage kick is caught or recovered by the kicking team behind the line of scrimmage, the kicking team may advance, even if the ball has crossed the line and returned behind the line. (3-25-4)
Item 1. Same Series of Downs. If the ball has returned behind the line untouched by the receiving team beyond the line, and the kicking team catches or recovers the ball, the existing series of downs continues unless the kicking team advances the ball to the line to gain, in which case there is a new series of downs.
Item 2. New Series of Downs. If the ball has returned behind the line after being touched by the receiving team beyond the line, and the kicking team catches or recovers the ball, by rule there has been a change of possession, and the kicking team will be awarded a new series of downs.
When the kickers catch or recover a kick beyond the line of scrimmage, the ball is dead at the spot of recovery, even if a member of the receiving team has first touched the ball.
Item 1. Legal Catch or Recovery. If the receiving team touches the ball beyond the line, a subsequent catch or recovery by the kicking team is legal, but the ball is dead. In the event of such a catch or recovery, it is first-and-10 for the kickers, or if the ball is caught or recovered by the kickers in the receiver’s end zone, it is a touchdown for the kickers. (7-3-1-d)
Item 2. Illegal Catch or Recovery. If the kickers catch or recover a kick beyond the line that has not been touched beyond the line by the receiving team, the ball is dead, and it is first-and-10 for the receivers at the spot of catch or recovery (see 11-4-2 for missed goals). If a kick from behind the line is touched by the receiving team behind the line, such touching does not make the kicking team eligible to catch or recover the kick beyond the line.
Item 3. Touchback. If a player of the kicking team illegally catches or recovers a scrimmage kick, other than a field-goal attempt from beyond the 20-yard line, and touches the goal line with any part of his body while in possession of the ball, the ball is dead, and the result of the play is a touchback. For a missed field goal from beyond the 20-yard line, see 11-4-2.
When a legal kick is simultaneously caught or recovered anywhere by two eligible opposing players, or if the ball is lying on the field of play with no player attempting to recover it, it is awarded to the receivers. (7-2-1-i)
If a scrimmage kick crosses the receiver’s goal line from the impetus of the kick, the following shall apply:
If a missed field goal or try, or a punt, has touched the receiver’s goal post, uprights, or crossbar, the ball is dead in the receiver’s end zone, and all customary rules pertaining to punts, missed field goals, and tries apply.
If a scrimmage kick touches the kickers’ goal post, uprights, or crossbar, the ball is dead, and it is a safety. See 11-5-1.
If a scrimmage kick goes out of bounds between the goal lines or is lying in the field of play with no player attempting to recover it, it is the receiver’s ball at the dead-ball spot, unless the special rules for missed field goals in 11-4-2 apply.
If there is a foul from the time of the snap until a legal scrimmage kick ends, enforcement is from the previous spot. This includes a foul during a run prior to a legal kick, and a foul by the kicking team during a missed field-goal attempt.
When Team B establishes possession of the ball, a scrimmage kick ends, and a running play begins, and fouls that occur thereafter are enforced from the dead-ball spot or the spot of the foul (three-and-one method, 14-3-6).
During a scrimmage kick that crosses the line of scrimmage, or during a free kick, members of the kicking team are prohibited from interfering with any receiver making an attempt to catch the airborne kick, or from obstructing or hindering his path to the airborne kick, and regardless of whether any signal was given.
Item 1. Contact with Receiver. It is interference if a player of the kicking team contacts the receiver, or causes a passive player of either team to contact the receiver, before or simultaneous to the receiver touching the ball.
Item 2. Right of Way. A receiver who is moving toward a kicked ball that is in flight has the right of way. If opponents obstruct his path to the ball, or cause a passive player of either team to obstruct his path, it is interference, even if there is no contact, or if he catches the ball in spite of the interference, and regardless of whether any signal was given.
Note: It is not a foul if a kicking team player is blocked into the receiver, or the contact is the result of a foul.
A Fair Catch is an unhindered catch of an airborne scrimmage kick that has crossed the line of scrimmage, or of an airborne free kick, by a player of the receiving team who has given a valid fair catch signal.
Item 1. Valid Fair-Catch Signal. A fair-catch signal is valid if it is made while the kick is in flight by a player who fully extends one arm above his helmet and waves it from side to side. A receiver is permitted to legally raise his hand(s) to his helmet to shield his eyes from the sun, but is not permitted to raise them above his helmet except to signal for a fair catch.
Item 2. Invalid Fair-Catch Signal. If a player raises his hand(s) above his shoulder(s) in any other manner, it is an invalid fair- catch signal. If there is an invalid fair-catch signal, the ball is dead when caught or recovered by any player of the receiving team, but it is not a fair catch. (The ball is not dead if it touches an opponent before or after it strikes the ground. See Article 3-b).
Note: A fair-catch signal given behind the line of scrimmage on a scrimmage kick is ignored and is neither valid nor invalid.
Penalty: For an invalid fair-catch signal: Loss of five yards from the spot of the signal. If the foul occurs in Team B’s end zone during a free kick, it is enforced from the previous spot.
Item 3. Muff. After a valid fair-catch signal, the opportunity to catch a kick does not end if the ball is muffed. The player who signaled for a fair catch must have a reasonable opportunity to catch the muffed ball before it hits the ground without interference by members of the kicking team, and regardless of whether the ball strikes another player or an official.
Penalty: For interference with the opportunity to make a fair catch after a muff: A fair catch is awarded at the spot of the interference even if the ball is not caught.
Item 4. Intentional Muff. An intentional muff forward prior to a catch in order to gain ground is an illegal bat (see 12-5-1-Note).
Item 5. Illegal Block. Until the ball touches a teammate or an opponent, a player who makes a valid or invalid fair-catch signal is prohibited from blocking or initiating contact with a player of the kicking team.
Penalty: For an illegal block after a fair-catch signal: Loss of 15 yards from the spot of the foul. If the foul occurs in Team B’s end zone during a free kick, it is enforced from the previous spot.
Penalty: For illegal contact with a player who has made a fair catch: Loss of 15 yards from the dead-ball spot and disqualification if flagrant.
After a fair catch is made, or is awarded as the result of fair-catch interference, the receiving team has the option of putting the ball in play by either a:
Note: A receiver may make or be awarded a fair catch in his end zone. If there is fair-catch interference or illegal contact with the receiver after he has made a fair catch, the 15-yard penalty is enforced from the receiver’s 20-yard line, and the option for a fair-catch kick is awarded.
If time expires during a play in which a player has signaled for a fair catch, the following shall apply:
The team that scores the greater number of points during the entire game is the winner.
Note: If a team forfeits a game, the opponent will be declared the winner by a score of 2-0, but the points will not be added to the winning team’s record for purposes of offensive production or tie-breakers.
Points are scored as follows:
A touchdown is scored when:
After a touchdown, a Try is an opportunity for either team to score one or two additional points during one scrimmage down.
The Try begins when the Referee sounds the whistle for play to start. The team that scored the touchdown shall put the ball in play:
During a Try, the following shall apply:
If a foul results in a retry, Team A will have the option to enforce the penalty from the spot where it attempted the try (previous spot) or from the yard line for the other try option.
Exception: Defensive pass interference is a spot foul. If the foul is in the end zone, the ball will be placed on the defense’s one- yard line, or half the distance to the goal, whichever is more advantageous to Team A. In addition, Team A may have the penalty enforced half the distance from the other Try spot.
Item 1. Fouls Before the Signal. If there is a foul by either team after a touchdown and before the ready-for-play signal, it is enforced on the next kickoff or the Try.
Item 2. Fouls Before the Snap. If there is a foul by the offense which causes a play to be whistled dead prior to the snap, it shall be treated the same as if it had occurred prior to a scrimmage play. The whistle shall be blown immediately. (See 7-4-1). If a foul by the defense prevents the attempt of a Try, the offensive team has the option to have the distance penalty assessed on the next Try or on the ensuing kickoff.
Item 3. Fouls by Team A. The following applies if there is a foul by Team A:
Item 4. Fouls by Team B. The following applies if there is a foul by Team B:
Note: If the foul is for defensive pass interference, and it is declined, no distance penalty is enforced on the kickoff.
Item 5. Fouls by Both Teams With No Change of Possession. If there are fouls by both teams during a Try in which there is not a change of possession, the Try must be replayed (14-5-1).
Exception: See 14-4-9-Item 3-exc. 2 for enforcement when the scoring team commits a dead ball foul after a score.
Item 6. Fouls by Both Teams With Change of Possession. If both teams foul during a Try in which there is a change or changes of possession, the following shall apply:
Item 7. Fouls After a Try. If there is a foul by either team after a Try, it is enforced on the succeeding kickoff. If there are fouls by both teams, normal enforcement rules apply.
After a Try, the team on defense during the Try shall receive the kickoff (6-1-1-a).
A field goal is scored when all of the following conditions are met:
Note: See 9-1-3 for restriction applicable to Team B formation at the snap.
If there is a missed field-goal attempt, and the ball has not been touched by the receivers beyond the line of scrimmage in the field of play, or in the end zone before the ball has touched the ground in the end zone, the following shall apply:
Note: These options apply only if the scrimmage kick has crossed the line.
The special rules pertaining to field goals in (a) and (b) are not applicable, and all general rules for a scrimmage kick, other than penalty enforcements, will apply when there is a missed field goal and:
Note: If a foul occurs during an unsuccessful field-goal attempt in (1) or (2) above, Rule 14-4-8 governs.
The rules for a field-goal attempt from scrimmage apply to a field-goal attempt following a Fair Catch (a Fair-Catch Kick).
Note: Though a fair-catch kick is not a free kick, the rules for a free-kick formation apply (6-1-3). However, the kicking team cannot possess the ball unless it has first been touched or possessed by the receivers.
An artificial or manufactured tee shall not be permitted to assist in the execution of a field goal.
After a field goal, the team scored upon will receive the kickoff. See 6-1-1-a.
It is a Safety:
It is not a safety:
After a safety, the team scored upon must put the ball in play by a free kick (punt, dropkick, or placekick) from its 20-yard line. An artificial or manufactured tee cannot be used. See 6-1-1-b and 6-1-3.
Exception: For extension of either half, see 4-8-2-g.
Note: A touchback, while not a score, is included in this rule because, like scoring plays, it is a case of a ball that is dead on or behind a goal line.
It is a Touchback if the ball is dead on or behind the goal line a team is defending, provided that the impetus comes from an opponent, and that it is not a touchdown or an incomplete forward pass.
Note: A ball in the end zone which is carried toward the field of play is still in the end zone until the entire ball is in the field of play (3-12-4).
When a team provides the impetus (3-17) that sends a loose ball behind its opponent’s goal line, it is a touchback:
After a touchback, the team that has been awarded the touchback next snaps the ball at its 20-yard line from any point on or between the inbound lines, unless the touchback results from a free kick, in which case the ball shall be placed at the team’s 25-yard line.
A player of either team may block (obstruct or impede) an opponent at any time, provided that the act is not:
Penalty: For illegal use of hands, arms, or body by the offense: Loss of 10 yards.
An offensive player is permitted to block an opponent by contacting him with his head, shoulders, hands, and/or outer surface of the forearm, or with any other part of his body that is not prohibited by another rule.
A blocker may use his arms, or open or closed hands, to contact an opponent on or outside the opponent’s frame (the body of an opponent below the neck that is presented to the blocker), provided that he does not materially restrict him. The blocker must work immediately to bring his hands inside the opponent’s frame, and as the play develops, the blocker is permitted to work for and maintain his position against an opponent, provided that he does not illegally clip or illegally push from behind.
An offensive player is permitted to use his hands or arms to restrict an opponent:
It is a foul if an offensive blocker:
Penalty: For illegal use of hands by the offense: Loss of 10 yards.
The use of hands on the back is not a foul when:
Penalty: For an illegal block in the back above the waist by the offense: Loss of 10 yards.
Penalty: For holding by the offense: Loss of 10 yards.
Exception: Holding will be called if the defender’s feet are taken away from him by the blocker’s action.
No offensive player may:
Penalty: For assisting the runner, interlocking interference, or illegal use of hands, arms, or body by the offense: Loss of 10 yards.
A defensive player may use his hands, arms, or body to push, pull, or ward off offensive players:
It is a foul for defensive holding if:
Penalty: For defensive holding: Loss of five yards and an automatic first down.
It is a foul if a defensive player thrusts his hands or arms forward above the frame of an opponent to forcibly contact him on the neck, face, or head.
Note: Contact in close-line play is not a foul, unless it is direct and forcible, or prolonged.
Penalty: For Illegal Use of Hands by the Defense: Loss of five yards and an automatic first down.
All players are prohibited from tripping an opponent, including the runner.
Penalty: For tripping by either team: Loss of 10 yards. If the foul is by the defense, it is also an automatic first down.
There shall be no clipping against a non-runner. This does not apply to offensive blocking in close-line play where it is legal to clip above the knee(s), but it is illegal to clip at or below the knee(s). See 3-7, close-line play.
Exception: An offensive lineman may not clip a defender above the knees who, at the snap, is aligned on the line of scrimmage opposite another offensive lineman who is more than one position away, and the defender is responding to the flow of the ball away from the blocker. Example: An offensive tackle cannot clip a defensive nose tackle on a sweep away.
Note: If there is a block from the side, or if an opponent turns his back as the block is being made, it is not clipping if the opponent is able to see or ward off the block, provided the blocker does not roll up on the back or side of the opponent’s leg(s).
If an offensive player’s block (legal or illegal) is followed by the blocker rolling up on the back or side of the leg(s) of a defender, it is clipping, including in close-line play.
When a blocker, who is moving in the same direction as an opponent, initially contacts the opponent on his side, and subsequently contacts the opponent below his waist from behind, it is not clipping if the contact is continuous.
Clipping shall not be called if an official has not observed the blocker’s initial contact with an opponent.
Penalty: For illegal clipping: Loss of 15 yards.
An offensive player cannot initiate contact on the side and below the waist against an opponent if:
Note: If the near shoulder of the blocker completely crosses the front of both of his opponent’s legs, the block is legal.
Penalty: For a “Peel Back” Block: Loss of 15 yards.
Blocks below the waist are prohibited in the following situations:
Penalty: For illegally blocking below the waist: Loss of 15 yards.
All Chop Blocks are illegal. A Chop Block is a high/low double-team block by the offense in which one offensive player (designated as A1 for purposes of this rule) blocks a defensive player in the area of the thigh or lower while another offensive player (A2) engages that same defensive player above the waist. The order of the blocks is irrelevant.
Illegal Chop Blocks include, but are not limited to, the following situations:
Penalty: For Chop Block: Loss of 15 yards.
All Crackback Blocks are illegal. It is a Crackback Block if the following conditions are fulfilled:
The block occurs within an area five yards on either side of the line of scrimmage, including within close-line play, by an offensive player who is moving toward the position from which the ball was snapped; and
The following is prohibited against a player who is the recipient of a Crackback Block:
Note: A player who initiates contact against such an opponent is responsible for avoiding an illegal act. A standard of strict liability applies for any contact against an opponent, even if his body position is in motion, and irrespective of any acts by him, such as ducking his head or curling up his body in anticipation of contact.
Penalty: For a crackback block: Loss of 15 yards.
It is a foul if a player initiates a block when his path is toward or parallel to his own end line and makes forcible contact to his opponent with his helmet, forearm, or shoulder.
Note: It is not a foul for a blindside block if the forcible contact occurs in “close-line play” prior to the ball leaving that area. The ball is not considered to have left that area if the player who takes the snap, either from a shotgun position or from under center, retreats in the pocket immediately or with a slight delay, and hands the ball to another player, or runs with the ball himself. This exception does not apply to any action other than a designed play. Any forcible contact in “close-line play” is still subject to the restrictions for crackback and peel back blocks.
Penalty: For a Blindside Block: Loss of 15 yards.
There shall be no unnecessary roughness. This shall include, but will not be limited to:
Penalty: For unnecessary roughness: Loss of 15 yards. The player may be disqualified if the action is judged by the official(s) to be flagrant. If the foul is by the defense, it is also an automatic first down.
Note: When in question about a roughness call or potentially dangerous tactics, the covering official(s) should always call unnecessary roughness.
It is a foul if a player initiates unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture.
Penalty: For unnecessary roughness: Loss of 15 yards and an automatic first down. The player may be disqualified if the action is judged by the official(s) to be flagrant.
It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.
Penalty: Loss of 15 yards. If the foul is by the defense, it is also an automatic first down. The player may be disqualified.
Because the act of passing often puts the quarterback (or any other player attempting a pass) in a position where he is particularly vulnerable to injury, special rules against roughing the passer apply. The Referee has principal responsibility for enforcing these rules. Any physical acts against a player who is in a passing posture (i.e. before, during, or after a pass) which, in the Referee’s judgment, are unwarranted by the circumstances of the play will be called as fouls. The Referee will be guided by the following principles:
Penalty: For Roughing the Passer: Loss of 15 yards and an automatic first down; disqualification, if flagrant.
No defensive player may run into or rough a kicker who kicks from behind the line unless such contact:
Item 1. Roughing the kicker. It is a foul for roughing the kicker if a defensive player:
Item 2. Running into the Kicker. It is a foul for running into the kicker if a defensive player:
For roughing the kicker: Loss of 15 yards from the previous spot (personal foul) and an automatic first down. The player may be disqualified if the action is flagrant.
For running into the kicker: Loss of five yards from the previous spot (not a personal foul). There is not an automatic first down.
It is a foul for roughing the holder if a defensive player forcibly contacts the holder of a place kick, unless the contact:
Penalty: For roughing the holder: Loss of 15 yards from the previous spot (personal foul) and an automatic first down. The player may be disqualified is the action is flagrant.
All players are prohibited from:
Penalty: Loss of 15 yards. If any of the fouls is judged by the official(s) to be flagrant, the offender may be disqualified as long as the entire action is observed by the official(s). If the foul is by the defense, it is also an automatic first down.
No player shall grasp and control, twist, turn, push, or pull the facemask or helmet opening of an opponent in any direction.
Note: If a player grasps an opponent’s facemask or helmet opening, he must immediately release it. If he does not immediately release it and controls his opponent, it is a foul.
Penalty: For twisting, turning, pushing, pulling, or controlling the mask or helmet opening: Loss of 15 yards. The player may be disqualified if the action is flagrant. If the foul is by the defense, it is also an automatic first down.
No player shall grab the inside collar of the back or the side of the shoulder pads or jersey, or grab the jersey at the name plate or above, and pull the runner toward the ground. This does not apply to a runner who is in the tackle box or to a quarterback who is in the pocket.
Note: It is not necessary for a player to pull the runner completely to the ground in order for the act to be illegal. If his knees are buckled by the action, it is a foul, even if the runner is not pulled completely to the ground.
Penalty: For a Horse-Collar Tackle: Loss of 15 yards and an automatic first down.
A player may not use a helmet that is no longer worn by anyone as a weapon to strike, swing at, or throw at an opponent.
Penalty: For illegal use of a helmet as a weapon: Loss of 15 yards and automatic disqualification. If the foul is by the defense, it is also an automatic first down.
There shall be no unsportsmanlike conduct. This applies to any act which is contrary to the generally understood principles of sportsmanship. Such acts specifically include, among others:
Penalty: (for (a) through (h)): Loss of 15 yards from the succeeding spot or whatever spot the Referee, after consulting with the crew, deems equitable. If the foul is by the defense, it is also an automatic first down.
Note: The Referee (or another official) will notify the Head Coach (i) that two charged timeouts by the same team in the same dead ball period are not permitted, and (ii) when he has exhausted his three charged team timeouts in a half.
Penalty: For unsportsmanlike conduct (for (j) through (w)): Loss of 15 yards from:
the succeeding spot if the ball is dead; or
the previous spot if the ball was in play.
If the infraction is flagrant, the player is also disqualified. If the foul is by the defense, it is also an automatic first down.
The defense shall not commit successive or repeated fouls to prevent a score.
Penalty: For successive or repeated fouls to prevent a score: If the violation is repeated after a warning, the score involved is awarded to the offensive team.
A team may not commit multiple fouls during the same down in an attempt to manipulate the game clock.
Penalty: For multiple fouls to run off time from the game clock: Loss of 15 yards, and the game clock will be reset to where it was at the snap. After the penalty is enforced, the game clock will start on the next snap.
A player or substitute shall not interfere with play by any act which is palpably unfair.
Penalty: For a palpably unfair act: Offender may be disqualified. The Referee, after consulting the officiating crew, enforces any such distance penalty as they consider equitable and irrespective of any other specified code penalty. The Referee may award a score. See 19-1-3.
In addition to any penalty referenced elsewhere in the Official Playing Rules, a player will be automatically disqualified if that player is penalized twice in the same game for committing one of the unsportsmanlike conduct fouls listed below, or a combination of the fouls listed below:
The player will be automatically disqualified regardless of whether the penalty is accepted or declined by the opponent. The fouls do not have to be judged by the official to be flagrant for the automatic disqualification to occur, and any foul that occurs during the pregame warm-up period will carry over into the game. Nothing in this section supersedes the Game Official’s discretion to judge a foul to be flagrant and disqualify the player based on one occurrence.
Note: This rule also applies to non-player personnel (e.g., management personnel, coaches, trainers, equipment personnel).
It is an illegal bat if:
Exception: A forward pass in flight may be tipped, batted, or deflected in any direction by any eligible player at any time.
Note: If a forward pass that is controlled by a player prior to completing the catch is thrown forward, it is an illegal bat. If it is caught by a teammate or intercepted by an opponent, the ball remains alive. If it is not caught, the ball is dead when it hits the ground.
Penalty: For illegal batting or punching the ball: Loss of 10 yards. If the foul is by Team A before possession changes during a scrimmage down: Loss of down and loss of 10 yards except for a foul by Team A beyond the line of scrimmage during a scrimmage kick, in which case there is no loss of down.
No player may deliberately kick a loose ball or a ball that is in a player’s possession.
Penalty: For illegally kicking the ball: Loss of 10 yards. If the foul is by Team A before possession changes during a scrimmage down: Loss of down and loss of 10 yards except for a foul by Team A beyond the line of scrimmage during a scrimmage kick, in which case there is no loss of down.
There shall be no unsportsmanlike conduct by a substitute, coach, attendant, or any other non-player (entitled to sit on a team’s bench) during any period or timeout (including between halves).
Either or both team attendants and their helpers may enter the field to attend their team during a team timeout by either team. No other non-player may come on the field without the Referee’s permission, unless he is an incoming substitute (5-2-2).
During any team timeout, all playing rules continue in force. Representatives of either team are prohibited from entering the field unless they are incoming substitutes, or team attendants or trainers entering to provide for the welfare of a player, and any game-type activities are prohibited on the field. The Head Coach may enter the field to check on the welfare of a player who is injured, but no assistant coach may enter the field.
With the exception of uniformed players eligible to participate in the game, all persons in a team’s bench area must wear a visible credential clearly marked “BENCH.” For all NFL games—pre-season, regular season, and post-season the home club will be issued a maximum of 27 credentials and the visiting club will be issued a maximum of 25 credentials for use in its bench area. Such credentials must be worn by coaches, players under contract to the applicable club but ineligible to participate in the game, and team support personnel (trainers, doctors, equipment men). From time to time, persons with game services credentials (e.g., oxygen technicians, ball boys/girls) and authorized club personnel not regularly assigned to the bench area may be in a team’s bench area for a brief period without bench credentials. Clubs are prohibited from allowing into their bench areas any persons who are not officially affiliated with the club or otherwise serving a necessary game day function.
All team personnel must observe the zone restrictions applicable to the bench area and the border rimming the playing field. The only persons permitted within the solid six-foot white border (1-1) while play is in progress on the field are game officials. For reasons involving the safety of participating players whose actions may carry them out of bounds, officials’ unobstructed coverage of the game, and spectators’ sightlines to the field, the border rules must be observed by all coaches and players in the bench area. Violators are subject to penalty by the officials.
Coaches and other non-participating team personnel (including uniformed players not in the game at the time) are prohibited from moving laterally along the sidelines any further than the points that are 18 yards from the middle of the bench area (i.e., 32-yard lines to left and right of bench areas when benches are placed on opposite sides of the field). Lateral movement within the bench area must be behind the solid six-foot white border.
Exception: When the ball is positioned near a goal line, a Head Coach may move laterally down the sideline outside the bench area to call a team timeout or challenge an on-field ruling.
Clubs are prohibited from allowing into the non-bench areas of field level any persons who have not been accredited to those locations by the home club’s public relations office for purposes related to news media coverage, stadium operations, or pregame and halftime entertainment. The home club is responsible for keeping the field level cleared of all unauthorized persons. Photographers and other personnel accredited for field-level work must not be permitted in the end zones or any other part of the official playing field while play is in progress.
Penalty: For illegal acts under Articles 1 through 6 above: Loss of 15 yards from team for whose supposed benefit foul was made. (Unsportsmanlike Conduct.)
Enforcement is from:
For a flagrant violation, the Referee may exclude the offender(s) from the playing field enclosure for the remainder of the game.
A non-player shall not commit any act which is palpably unfair.
Note: Various actions involving a palpably unfair act may arise during a game. In such cases, the officials may award a distance penalty in accordance with 12-3-4, even when it does not involve disqualification of a player or substitute. 17-1.
Non-player personnel of a club (e.g., management personnel, coaches, trainers, equipment personnel) are prohibited from making unnecessary physical contact with or directing abusive, threatening, or insulting language or gestures at opponents, game officials, or representatives of the League.
Penalty: Loss of 15 yards. (Unsportsmanlike Conduct.) Enforcement is from:
Note: Violations which occur before or during the game may result in disqualification in addition to the yardage penalty. Any violation at the game site on the day of the game, including postgame, may result in discipline by the Commissioner.
Unless expressly prohibited, the penalty for any foul may be declined by the offended team, and play proceeds as though no foul had been committed. The yardage distance for any penalty may be declined, even though the penalty is accepted.
Note: If the defensive team commits a foul during an unsuccessful Try, the offensive team may decline the distance penalty, and the down is replayed from the previous spot.
Exception: If there is a Double Foul, enforcement is pursuant to Section 5 below.
Note: In all situations, a disqualified or suspended player must be removed, including when the foul that led to the disqualification or suspension is declined, a penalty for another foul is chosen (Multiple Foul), or fouls by both teams offset (Double Foul).
Item 1. Foul by Team A. If the ball is behind the line to gain after the enforcement of a distance penalty for a foul by Team A that occurs prior to (between downs) or during a play from scrimmage, the number of the ensuing down remains the same, unless it is a combination penalty involving loss of down (see Item 2).
Item 2. Combination Penalty. A combination penalty involving both distance and loss of down is enforced for the following fouls:
If a loss-of-down penalty is enforced prior to fourth down, the number of the ensuing down is one greater than that of the previous down. If it is enforced on fourth down, the ball is awarded to Team B; if there is a combination penalty on fourth down, the distance penalty is also enforced.
Item 3. Line to Gain and Change of Possession. If a change (or multiple changes) of possession is negated by enforcement of a penalty against Team A during a play from scrimmage, the line to gain for Team A remains the same.
Item 4. Ball in Advance of Line to Gain. If the ball is in advance of the line to gain after the enforcement of a distance penalty for a foul by Team A during a play from scrimmage, it is first-and-10 for Team A. It is also first-and-10 after enforcement for a Dead Ball Foul (Section 4, Article 9) by Team A at the end of a play from scrimmage when there has not been a change of possession.
Exception: A foul against an official, regardless of when it occurs, is always treated as a Foul Between Downs. See 12-3-1-e.
Item 5. Foul by Team B. After a penalty for a foul by Team B prior to (between downs) or during a play from scrimmage, the ensuing down is first-and-10 for Team A.
For the above exceptions, the number of the down and the line to gain remain the same unless a distance penalty places the ball on or in advance of the line to gain, in which case it is first-and-10 for Team A.
Item 6. Foul After Change of Possession. If there is a foul, including a dead-ball foul, after team possession has changed during a down, following enforcement of a distance penalty, it is first-and-10 for the team that was in possession at the time of the foul.
Item 7. Foul Between Downs. If there is a Foul Between Downs, the down remains the same, unless enforcement of the foul results in a first down.
Item 8. Double Fouls. If there is a Double Foul during the down, and the fouls offset, the down is replayed, and the number of the down remains the same.
If there is a Multiple Foul (3-14-1-d) during the down, only one penalty may be enforced after the Referee has explained the alternatives to the offended team.
If the enforcement of a distance penalty would move the ball more than half the distance from the spot of enforcement to the offender’s goal line, the penalty shall be half the distance from the spot of enforcement to its goal line. This general rule supersedes any other general or specific enforcement of a distance penalty.
If a team commits a personal or unsportsmanlike conduct foul, or a palpably unfair act, during a down in which the opponent scores, the penalty is enforced on the succeeding free kick (unless the score resulted from the enforcement). On a touchdown, the penalty, whether a live-ball or dead-ball foul or a foul between downs, can be enforced on the succeeding kickoff or Try. On a successful Try kick, any foul by Team B that does not result in a retry or negate a score may be enforced on the succeeding free kick.
Exception: If a personal foul, unsportsmanlike conduct foul, or a palpably unfair act occurs on a touchdown or successful field goal, the scoring team has the option to begin a new series or to replay the down following enforcement of the penalty from the previous spot, and the score does not count. On a successful Try kick, the scoring team has the option to replay the down following enforcement of the penalty from the previous spot or the other Try spot.
The general provisions of Rule 14 govern all spots of enforcement, except for specific enforcements designated elsewhere in these rules.
Penalties for fouls committed by non-players shall be enforced as provided for in Rule 13.
When the spot of enforcement is not governed by a general or specific rule, it is the spot of the foul.
The Spot of Enforcement is the spot at which a penalty is enforced. There are six spots that are commonly used:
The Basic Spot is a reference point that is used to determine the Spot of Enforcement for fouls committed pursuant to the Three-and-One Method of Enforcement. It is applicable for fouls committed during (i) a running play or (ii) a backward pass or fumble.
For fouls committed during a run, a fumble or a backward pass, the penalty is enforced from the Basic Spot if:
If the offense fouls behind the Basic Spot, enforcement is from the spot of the foul (three-and-one method of enforcement).
Exceptions for fouls committed by the offense:
Exception for fouls committed by the defense:
(1) When the Basic Spot is behind the line of scrimmage, and the defense has committed a foul either behind or beyond the line of scrimmage, the penalty is enforced from the previous spot.
Item 1. Before the Snap. A foul that occurs prior to the snap is enforced from the succeeding spot, and the down remains the same, unless enforcement of the foul results in a first down.
Item 2. At the Snap. A foul that occurs at the snap is enforced from the previous spot, and the down is repeated, unless enforcement of the foul results in a first down.
For a foul committed during a running play when there is not a subsequent change of possession during the down, the Basic Spot is the dead-ball spot. The three-and-one method of enforcement is used (see Section 3, Article 6).
Note: A foul during a run prior to a forward pass or kick from behind the line is enforced as a foul during a passing play or during a scrimmage kick.
When a foul occurs during a running play, and the run in which the foul occurs is followed by a change of possession, the Basic Spot is the spot where possession is lost. The three-and-one method of enforcement is used (see Section 3, Article 6).
If there is a foul by either team after a change of possession, and the dead-ball spot is in Team B’s end zone, enforcement shall be as follows:
Note: If a Team B player’s original momentum carries him into his end zone, where the ball is declared dead in his team’s possession, the dead-ball spot is considered to be the spot at which the player established possession. See 11-5-1-Exc. 2.
Note: Dead-ball fouls by either team are enforced from the succeeding spot.
If there is a foul by either team from the time of the snap until a forward pass thrown from behind the line ends, the penalty is enforced from the previous spot. A pass play ends and a running play begins at the instant that a pass is caught.
If there is a foul by either team during a backward pass or fumble, the Basic Spot is the spot of the backward pass or fumble. The three-and-one method of enforcement is used (see Section 3, Article 6).
If there is a foul during a free kick, enforcement is from the previous spot, and the free kick is made again. However, if the kicking team commits a foul prior to the end of the kick, and the receiving team retains possession throughout the down, it will have the option of enforcing the penalty at the previous spot and replaying the down or adding the penalty yardage to the dead-ball spot.
Note: The dead-ball spot for free kicks that result in a touchback is the 25-yard line.
A free kick ends when Team B establishes possession. Fouls by Team A prior to the time that Team B establishes possession are offensive fouls. If Team A legally recovers a free kick, there is no change of possession. After Team B establishes possession, a running play begins, and fouls that occur thereafter are enforced from the dead-ball spot or the spot of the foul (three-and-one method).
If there is a foul from the time of the snap until a legal scrimmage kick ends, enforcement is from the previous spot. This includes a foul during a run prior to a legal kick, and a foul by the kicking team during a missed field-goal attempt.
When Team B establishes possession of the ball, a scrimmage kick ends, and a running play begins, and fouls that occur thereafter are enforced from the dead-ball spot or the spot of the foul (three-and-one method, 14-3-6).
A Dead Ball Foul is a foul that occurs in the continuing action after a down ends, or a taunting foul that occurs at any time. The penalty for a Dead Ball Foul is enforced from the succeeding spot, and the down counts.
A Foul Between Downs is a foul that occurs after the end of the down and after any continuing action resulting from the down, but prior to the next snap or free kick. The penalty for a Foul Between Downs is enforced from the succeeding spot, and the down counts, but it cannot be combined with a Live Ball Foul or a Dead Ball Foul to create a Multiple or Double Foul. A Foul Between Downs is always enforced separately from any other foul. A foul against an official, regardless of when it occurs, is always treated as a Foul Between Downs. See 12-3-1-e-pen.
Exception: If there is a personal, unsportsmanlike conduct, or taunting foul by either team following the end of the second or fourth periods, the penalty yardage will be enforced on the second-half kickoff or the kickoff in overtime, unless it is part of a Double Foul (See Section 5).
Item 1. Dead Ball Foul by Team A. If there is a Dead Ball Foul by Team A after a down in which Team A has made a first down, after enforcement of the penalty it will be first-and-10 for Team A. If there is a Foul Between Downs after a down in which Team A has made a first down, after enforcement of the penalty it will be first-and-25 for Team A.
Item 2. Dead Ball Fouls by Both Teams. Dead Ball Fouls by both teams are offset at the succeeding spot, and the down counts, but any disqualified player or players must be removed pursuant to Rule 5, Section 2, Article 7.
Item 3. Live Ball and Dead Ball Fouls. Live Ball Fouls and Dead Ball Fouls combine to create Double Fouls or Multiple Fouls, and all customary rules for enforcement apply.
If there is a Double Foul (3-14-1-e) during a down in which there is not a change of possession, the penalties are offset, and the down is replayed at the previous spot. If it is a scrimmage down, the number of the next down and the line to gain is the same as for the down in which the fouls occurred.
Note: Disqualification of one or more players is enforced, even though the penalties are offset.
If there is a Double Foul during a down in which there is a change or changes of possession, including if one of the fouls is a post-possession foul by Team B during a scrimmage kick, the team last gaining possession will keep the ball after enforcement for its foul, provided it did not foul prior to last gaining possession (“clean hands”).
If the team last in possession does not have “clean hands” when it establishes possession, the penalties offset, and the down is replayed at the previous spot.
Each team is permitted two challenges that will initiate Instant Replay reviews:
A team that initiates a challenge when the team is not permitted to challenge will be charged a team timeout.
Penalty: For initiating a challenge when a team has exhausted its timeouts: Loss of 15 yards enforced as a foul between downs.
Only the Replay Official or the Senior Vice President of Officiating or his or her designee may initiate a review of a play:
Such plays may be reviewed regardless of whether a foul is committed on the play that, if accepted, would negate the on-field ruling.
The Replay Official may only challenge a play until the next legal snap or kick. The Replay Official may consult with a designated member of the Officiating department at the league office regarding whether to challenge a play.
All Replay Reviews will be conducted by the Senior Vice President of Officiating or his or her designee. Reviews are conducted in consultation with the Replay Official and the Referee, who will have access to a field-level video monitor.
An on-field ruling will be changed only when the Senior Vice President of Officiating or his or her designee determines that clear and obvious visual evidence warrants a change.
A decision must be made within 60 seconds from when video is shared with the Referee on the field.
Once a review is initiated, all reviewable aspects of a play (Section 3) may be examined and are subject to change, even if not the specific reason for the challenge.
When the on-field ruling results in a dead ball (e.g., score, down by contact, incomplete pass, etc.), and following replay review, it is determined that possession was lost before the ball should have been ruled dead, possession may be awarded to a player who clearly recovers a loose ball in the immediate continuing action. A loose ball that touches out of bounds is deemed a clear recovery by the player who last possessed the ball.
Note: If on-field officials make a preliminary ruling of which team recovered the ball, that preliminary ruling may constitute a clear recovery.
Any aspect of a ruling that is not changed will be considered a correct ruling for purposes of reviewing the play.
The Replay System will cover the following play situations:
Item 1. Completion of a Pass. Whether a pass was complete or incomplete.
Item 2. Recovery of a Loose Ball. Whether a player legally recovered a loose ball in the field of play, at the sideline, goal line, or in the end zone.
Item 3. Forward Pass or Fumble. Whether a passer’s hand started forward with control of the ball, or whether the ball was fumbled.
Item 4. Fumble. Whether a runner lost possession before he was down by contact, or had given himself up.
Item 1. Down by Contact. Whether a player was down by contact while in possession of the ball.
Item 2. Touching of a Forward Pass. Whether a player touched a forward pass.
Item 3. Touching of a Kick. Whether a player touched a kick and the spot of touching.
Note: A foul for running into or roughing the kicker or holder can be removed if the kicked ball was touched before the contact. If a pre-review announcement was made that there was no foul because the ball was ruled to be touched, a foul for running into or roughing the kicker or holder can be created in replay if the ball was not touched before the contact.
Item 4. Ball Touching the Ground on a Free Kick. Whether a ball hit the ground after being kicked.
Item 5. Ball Touching the Ground on a Scrimmage Kick. Whether a ball touched the ground before being caught or recovered by a punter or holder.
Item 1. Ball breaking the plane of the goal line. Whether any part of the ball broke the plane of the goal line while in player possession and before the ball should have been declared dead.
Item 2. Momentum. Whether a player’s momentum spot was in the field of play or in the end zone (Rule 11-5-1-b, exc. 2). A ruling of whether a player’s momentum caused him to enter his end zone is not reviewable.
Note: For purposes of a replay review, the momentum spot is the spot where the second foot (or other body part other than the hands) touched the ground. If that spot is on the goal line or in the end zone, it is a touchback.
Item 1. Runner Inbounds. A ruling that a runner was out of bounds is reviewable only to determine: (a) the spot of the ball in relation to the line to gain or the goal line at the spot where the runner was ruled to have touched out of bounds; (b) if the runner fumbled the ball before taking two additional steps beyond the spot where he was ruled out of bounds; or (c) if the ball broke the plane of the goal line in the runner’s possession before taking two additional steps beyond the spot where he was ruled out of bounds.
Item 2. Receiver Out of Bounds. Whether a receiver touched out of bounds is reviewable to determine whether he was eligible to touch the ball and whether a defender could legally contact him.
Item 3. Passer Out of Bounds Before Throwing Pass. A ruling that a player stepped out of bounds before throwing a pass is not reviewable to determine if he was inbounds when he threw the pass.
Item 4. Player Out of Bounds on Scrimmage Kick. Whether a player was out of bounds during a scrimmage kick is reviewable to determine the spot of the ball and whether the ball was illegally touched.
Item 5. Loose Ball. Whether a loose ball touched a boundary line, anything on the boundary line, a pylon, or an object.
Note: Ball That Does Not Touch a Boundary Line. If an on-field ruling that a loose ball touched a boundary line is changed, possession can be awarded to a team that recovers the loose ball in the immediate continuing action.
Item 1. Illegal Passes. Whether a forward pass was thrown when the passer was beyond the line of scrimmage, or after the ball had crossed the line of scrimmage and returned behind it. Rule 8-1-2, Item 1.
Item 2. Illegal Kick. Whether a scrimmage kick was from beyond the line of scrimmage, or a second kick was made after the ball had crossed the line of scrimmage. Rule 9-1-1.
The dead-ball spot is reviewable to determine whether it was short of, at, or beyond the line to gain.
Whether a player is on the field at the snap. For a player to be off the field, he must touch the ground out of bounds. For a player to be on the field, both feet or a body part must touch the ground in the field of play.
The Replay Official and designated members of the Officiating department may consult with on-field officials, or conduct a replay review, of game administration issues, including, but not limited to: (a) penalty enforcement; (b) the proper down; (c) spot of a foul; and (d) the game clock.
Item 1. Game Clock. The game clock is reviewable for purposes of restoring time to the clock but not for purposes of taking time off the clock.
The Senior Vice President of Officiating or his or her designee may review a decision by on-field officials to disqualify a player. When reviewing a disqualification under this Article other reviewable aspects of the play will not be reviewed unless the Replay Official would otherwise have authority to challenge the play, or it is challenged by a Head Coach.
Item 1. Direction of a Pass. Whether a pass was forward or backward.
Note: When an on-field ruling is incomplete, and the pass was clearly backward, the ruling of incomplete will stand if there is no clear recovery in the immediate continuing action. If there is no clear recovery, the ball will be awarded to the team last in possession at the spot where possession was lost.
Item 2. Illegal Forward Pass. Whether a pass was illegally thrown.
Item 3. Field Goal or Try Attempt. Whether a field goal or Try attempt crossed above the crossbar and inside the uprights is reviewable, but only if the ball crosses the plane of the goal post below the top of the uprights, or if the ball touches anything.
Item 4. Illegal Forward Handoff. Whether a player received a handoff clearly in advance of a player making the handoff.
Item 5. Ball Touching a Foreign Object. Whether a loose ball touched a scoreboard, guide wire, or any other object.
The following aspects of plays are not reviewable:
When a ruling is changed in replay, the clock status following review is determined by Rule 4-3, and the game clock will be reset to the time when the ball should have been declared dead. The game clock is not reset if the on-field ruling is not changed in replay.
When a changed ruling results in a running clock for plays that begin after the two-minute warning, the clock is reset to the time when the play should have ended, and the clock will run for 10 seconds from the reset time. If less than 10 seconds remain in the half or the game, the half or the game is over.
Note: Neither team may decline a 10-second runoff under this Article, but either team can avoid the 10-second runoff by taking a charged team timeout. If the 10-second runoff is avoided, the game clock will be reset to the time when the play should have ended and will start on the snap.
A team that makes an unsuccessful challenge is charged a team timeout. If a team takes a team timeout and then unsuccessfully challenges a play, it is charged a second timeout. A challenge is considered successful if any reviewable aspect of the play is changed.
A charged timeout taken after the two-minute warning of either half with the clock running will be restored if a review changes the ruling and the new ruling results in a stopped clock. A charged injury timeout can be restored if a ruling changed in replay would not have resulted in a charged injury timeout.
Penalty administration, including the number of the down, yardage, the number of the fouling player, and the spot of a foul, is reviewable.
A foul will be nullified when a necessary aspect of the foul is changed in replay. A foul can be created following a review if the reviewable aspect creates the foul, or if the Referee announced before the review that there was no foul on the play because of a specific ruling that is changed in the review.
Item 1. Major Fouls. When a ruling is changed in replay, any foul that occurred after the ball should have been declared dead is disregarded except for personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. Live-ball fouls that occurred on the challenged play may be enforced if they occurred before the ball should have been declared dead.
Item 2. Pre-Snap Fouls Before Challenge. Pre-snap fouls, other than personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct fouls, that occur before a replay review will be ignored if the ruling on the previous play is changed.
Item 3. Head Coach’s Ability to Change Penalty Decision. If a ruling is changed in replay, a Head Coach can change a decision whether to accept or decline a penalty that was made before the review.
If communications between the officials and the League office are lost, the Referee will stay at the on-field monitor for one minute while communications are being restored. If communications are not restored within one minute, the Referee will conduct the replay review in consultation with the Replay Official. If communications are restored during the review, the League office will review the play as normal.
If the score is tied at the end of the regulation playing time of all preseason, regular season, and postseason NFL games, a system of modified sudden-death overtime shall be in effect, pursuant to the following.
At the end of regulation playing time, the Referee shall immediately toss a coin at the center of the field, in accordance with rules pertaining to a usual pregame toss (4-2-2). The visiting team captain is to again call the toss.
Following an intermission of no more than three minutes after the end of the regular game, the extra period shall commence.
The following shall apply to overtime games in the preseason and regular season.
The following shall apply to overtime games in the postseason:
Disqualified player(s) shall not re-enter during any extra period or periods in the preseason, regular season, and postseason.
Except as provided for above, all other general and specific rules shall apply during any extra period or periods in the preseason, regular season, and postseason.
If any non-player, including photographers, reporters, employees, police or spectators, enters the field of play or end zones, and in the judgment of an official said party or parties interfere with the play, the Referee, after consulting the crew (13-1-7 and 19-1-3), shall enforce any such penalty or score as the interference warrants.
If spectators enter the field and/or interfere with the progress of the game in such a manner that in the opinion of the Referee the game cannot continue, the Referee shall declare timeout. In such a case, the Referee shall record the number of the down, distance to be gained, and the position of the ball on the field. The Referee shall also secure from the Line Judge the playing time remaining and record it. The Referee shall then order the home club through its management to have the field cleared, and when it is cleared and order restored and the safety of the spectators, players and officials is assured to the satisfaction of the Referee, the game must continue even if it is necessary to use lights.
If the game must be called due to a state or municipal law, or by darkness if no lights are available, an immediate report shall be made to the Commissioner by the home club, visiting club, and officials. On receipt of all reports, the Commissioner shall make a decision which will be final.
The NFL affirms the position that in most circumstances all regular-season and postseason games should be played to their conclusion. If, in the opinion of appropriate League authorities, it is impossible to begin or continue a game due to an emergency, or a game is deemed to be imminently threatened by any such emergency (e.g., severely inclement weather, lightning, flooding, power failure), the following procedures (Articles 5 through 11) will serve as guidelines for the Commissioner and/or the duly appointed representatives. The Commissioner has the authority to review the circumstances of each emergency and to adjust the following procedures in whatever manner the Commissioner deems appropriate. If, in the Commissioner’s opinion, it is reasonable to project that the resumption of an interrupted game would not change its ultimate result or adversely affect any other inter-team competitive issue, the Commissioner is empowered to terminate the game.
The League employees vested with the authority to define emergencies under these procedures are the Commissioner, designated representatives from the League office staff, and the game Referee. In those instances where neither the Commissioner nor the designated representative is in attendance at a game, the Referee will have sole authority; provided, however, that if the Referee delays the beginning of or interrupts a game for a significant period of time due to an emergency, the Referee must make every effort to contact the Commissioner or the Commissioner’s designated representative for consultation. In all cases of significant delay, the League authorities will consult with the management of the participating clubs and will attempt to obtain appropriate information from outside sources, if applicable (e.g., weather bureau, police).
If, because of an emergency, a regular-season or postseason game is not started at its scheduled time and cannot be played at any later time that same day, the game nevertheless must be played on a subsequent date to be determined by the Commissioner.
If there is deemed to be a threat of an emergency that may occur during the playing of a game (e.g., an incoming tropical storm), the starting time of such game will not be moved to an earlier time unless there is clearly sufficient time to make an orderly change.
If, under emergency circumstances, an interrupted regular-season or post-season game cannot be completed on the same day, such game will be rescheduled by the Commissioner and resumed at that point.
In instances under these emergency procedures which require the Commissioner to reschedule a regular-season game, the Commissioner will make every effort to set the game for no later than two days after its originally scheduled date, and will attempt to schedule the game at its original site. If unable to do so, the Commissioner will schedule it at the nearest available facility. If it is impossible to schedule the game within two days after its original date, the Commissioner will attempt to schedule it on the Tuesday of the next calendar week in which the two involved clubs play other clubs (or each other). Further, the Commissioner will keep in mind the potential for competitive inequities if one or both of the involved clubs has already been scheduled for a game following the Tuesday of that week (e.g., Thanksgiving).
If an emergency interrupts a postseason game and such game cannot be resumed on that same date, the Commissioner will make every effort to arrange for its completion as soon as possible. If unable to schedule the game at the same site, the Commissioner will select an appropriate alternate site. The Commissioner will terminate the game short of completion only, if in the Commissioner’s judgment, the continuation of the game would not be normally expected to alter the ultimate result.
In all instances where a game is resumed after interruption, either on the same date or a subsequent date, the resumption will begin at the point at which the game was interrupted. At the time of interruption, the Referee will call timeout and will make a record of the following: the team possessing the ball, direction in which its offense was headed, position of the ball on the field, down, distance, period, time remaining in the period, and any other pertinent information required for an efficient and equitable resumption of play.
The Commissioner has the sole authority to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary and/or corrective measures if any club action, non-participant interference, or calamity occurs in an NFL game which the Commissioner deems so extraordinarily unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional football that such action has a major effect on the result of the game.
The authority and measures provided for in this entire Section 2 do not constitute a protest machinery for NFL clubs to avail themselves of in the event a dispute arises over the result of a game. The investigation called for in this Section 2 will be conducted solely on the Commissioner’s initiative to review an act or occurrence that the Commissioner deems so extraordinary or unfair that the result of the game in question would be inequitable to one of the participating teams. The Commissioner will not apply authority in cases of complaints by clubs concerning judgmental errors or routine errors of omission by game officials. Games involving such complaints will continue to stand as completed.
The Commissioner’s powers under this Section 2 include the imposition of monetary fines and draft-choice forfeitures, suspension of persons involved in unfair acts, and, if appropriate, the reversal of a game’s result or the rescheduling of a game, either from the beginning or from the point at which the extraordinary act occurred. In the event of rescheduling a game, the Commissioner will be guided by the procedures specified in 17-1-5–11, above. In all cases, the Commissioner will conduct a full investigation, including the opportunity for hearings, use of game video, and any other procedure the Commissioner deems appropriate.
One hour and thirty minutes prior to kickoff: Respective coaches designate a maximum of six captains per team.
Only one captain is permitted to indicate the team’s penalty option.
Note: A captain on the field has no authority to request a change of fellow team captain when that captain remains on the field.
The game shall be played under the supervision of seven officials: the Referee, Umpire, Down Judge, Line Judge, Field Judge, Side Judge, and Back Judge. In the absence of seven officials, the crew is to be rearranged according to the remaining members of the crew.
The officials’ jurisdiction begins 100 minutes before the scheduled kickoff and ends when the Referee declares the final score.
The Referee is to have general oversight and control of the game. The Referee is the final authority for the score. If there is a disagreement between members of the crew regarding the number of down, any decision, or the application, enforcement, or interpretation of a rule, the Referee’s decision will be final. The Referee’s decisions upon all matters not specifically placed under the jurisdiction of other officials by rule are final.
Officiating responsibilities and mechanics are specified in the Mechanics Manual, published annually by the National Football League.
The Replay Official and designated members of the Officiating department at the League office may consult with the on-field officials to provide information on the correct application of playing rules, including appropriate assessment of penalty yardage, proper down, and status of the game clock. In addition, if the designated members of the Officiating department determine that a foul for a football or non-football act called on the field is flagrant, then they can instruct the on-field officiating crew to disqualify the player(s) who committed the foul. Those players who were not penalized, but who engaged in football or non-football acts that were determined to be flagrant and directly related to the foul called on the field, may also be disqualified by designated members of the Officiating department. The determination that a foul is flagrant must be based on the available video provided on the television broadcast, and the designated members of the Officiating department must instruct the officiating crew to disqualify the identified player(s) before the ball is next legally put in play. The Officiating department does not have the authority to instruct the on-field game officials to assess a penalty against a player.
Loss of Five Yards
Second and each subsequent team timeout after the two-minute warning 4-5-4
Delay of game, i.e.,
exceeding 40/25 seconds in putting ball in play 4-6-1, 2
repeatedly snapping ball before Referee can assume normal position 4-6-5
runner remaining on ball or opponent remaining on runner to consume time 4-6-5
undue delay in assembling after a timeout 4-6-5
defensive abrupt non-football movements 4-6-5
spiking or throwing the ball in the field of play 4-6-5
taking the ball from a downed runner causing delay 4-6-5
Illegal substitution, i.e.,
substitute entering during play, withdrawn player on field at snap or free kick (unless interference) or withdrawing on opponent’s side or across end line 5-2-8
Illegal kick at free kick (ball remains dead and replay) 6-1-1
Violation of free kick formation (includes kickoff), i.e.,
kickers failing to be behind ball or inbounds (except placekick holder) 6-1-3
receivers failing to be inbounds or behind their free kick line 6-1-3
kicking team player (other than kicker) more than one yard behind restraining line 6-1-3
less than five kicking team players on each side of kicker 6-1-3
Illegally touching free kick (a) before it goes 10 yards or (b) after being out of bounds 6-2-4
Illegal position of Team A players at the snap, i.e.,
having fewer than seven players on line 7-5-1
having player neither on nor one yard behind his line unless man under center 7-5-1
Illegally lining up over center 9-1-3
More than six players on line of scrimmage on either side of center 9-1-3
Player entering neutral zone contacts opponent 7-4-3
Being offside at snap 7-4-5
Neutral zone infraction 7-4-4
Player not reporting change in eligibility 5-3-1
more than eleven men on field at snap or in formation 5-1-1
Illegal motion by Team A at snap, i.e.,
player not being stationary (except) one only in motion clearly backwards 7-4-8
single player not moving clearly backward at snap 7-4-8
Pausing less than one second after a shift 7-4-7
Being out of bounds at snap 7-5-1
Not snapping ball when prescribed 7-6-3
Illegally snapping ball i.e.,
failing to make backward pass 7-6-4
failing to place ball on ground as specified 7-6-3
Failing to give impulse by continuous motion or sliding hands along ball before snap 7-6-3
False start 7-4-2
Snap going to receiver on line 7-6-4
Making forward pass in field of play not from scrimmage 8-1-2
Second forward pass 8-1-2
Pass after ball crossed line of scrimmage and returned 8-1-2
Illegal touch of forward pass by an ineligible receiver 8-1-8
Ineligible player downfield on pass 8-3-1
Illegal forward handling 8-7-4
Ineligible player downfield on kick 9-1-2
Kicking team player voluntarily out of bounds during a punt 9-1-5
Making invalid fair-catch signal 10-2-2
Illegal use of hands by defense, i.e.,
Running into kicker behind his line (not roughing) 12-2-12
Loss of Ten Yards
Pass interference by Team A 8-5-4
holding, illegal use of hands, arms or body on offense, illegal block in the back above the waist 12-1-3
Tripping by a Team A player 12-1-8
Assisting runner 12-1-4
Batting or punching ball, when loose (unless a pass), towards opponents’ goal line or in any direction if in end zone 12-5-1
Loss of Fifteen Yards
Not being able to start each half on scheduled time 4-2-1
Interfering with fair catch (and catch awarded) 10-1-1
Tackling or blocking maker of a fair catch or avoidable running into 10-2-3
Striking, kneeing and kicking (also disqualification) 12-2-14
Striking opponent below shoulders with forearm or elbow by turning or pivoting 12-2-14
Twisting, turning or pulling of opponent’s facemask 12-2-15
Blocking below waist on kicks and change of possession 12-2-4
Roughing the kicker 12-2-12
Falling on or piling on a player on the ground 12-2-8-d, e
Unnecessary roughness (also disqualification when flagrant), i.e.,
striking an opponent with foot or shin in a whipping motion (leg whip) 12-2-8-a
tackling runner who is out of bounds 12-2-8-b
running into, throwing body against a player obviously out of the play or after the ball is dead 12-2-8-g
Initiating contact with the crown of the helmet 12-2-10
running into from behind or dropping body across back of legs of opponent who is not the runner (clipping) 12-2-1
Illegal crackback 12-2-6
Peel-back block 12-2-2
Blindside block 12-2-7
Roughing the passer 12-2-11
Chop block 12-2-5
Illegal block after fair catch signal 10-2-2-Item 5
Unsportsmanlike conduct by players (also disqualification when flagrant), i.e.,
using abusive or insulting language or gestures to players or officials or continuing acts 12-3-1-b
baiting or taunting 12-3-1-c
player pushing, shoving, or laying hand on official 12-3-1-e
attempting to disconcert Team A at snap by words or signals 12-3-1-i
concealing the ball under clothing or substituting article for ball 12-3-1-j
repeatedly violating substitution rule in attempt to conserve time 12-3-1-m
violating 40-second rule two or more (same down) after a warning 12-3-1-n
leaping to attempt to block a field goal or point after touchdown unless the player was lined up on the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped 12-3-1-r
a punter, placekicker or holder who simulates being roughed or run into by a defensive player 12-3-1-u
receiving team forming illegal wedge on free kick 6-1-3
Illegal conduct by non-players (also exclusion for flagrant violations), i.e.,
player on field communicating other than to coach in prescribed area 13-1-1
team representatives using unsportsmanlike conduct during game or between halves or sitting on bench when not qualified 13-1-3
non-players going on field without permission (other than team attendants during a team timeout) 13-1-2
non-players moving along boundary lines (unless substitute warming up or coach in prescribed area) 13-1-5
Loss of Down
Illegal touch of forward pass by an eligible receiver who became ineligible 8-1-8
Loss of Half Distance to Goal Line
Pass interference by Team B in its end zone and previous spot is inside its 2-yard line 8-5-4
Distance penalty enforced from a spot between goal lines carrying ball more than half the distance to either goal line 14-2-1
Ball placed on 1-Yard Line
Pass interference by Team B in its end zone and previous spot is outside its 2-yard line 8-5-4
Excess timeout (withdrawal only when fourth timeout – also loss of five when fifth or more) 4-5-4
Player being disqualified, suspended (illegal equipment), or replaced 5-4-1
Illegal return (loss of five also) 5-2-8
Disqualification always occurs in combination with a 15-yard penalty. Exceptions to distance penalties:
Both teams committing disqualifying fouls (double foul) 14-5-1-Note
Distance being declined 14-1-1
Loss of 15 yards
Flagrant striking, kicking, or kneeing an opponent or striking him on head or neck with heel, back or side of hand wrist, elbow, or forearm 12-2-14
Flagrant roughing of kicker 12-2-12
Flagrant roughing of passer 12-2-11
Flagrant unsportsmanlike conduct by players 12-3-1
Player using a helmet as a weapon 12-2-17
Disqualified player returning (exclusion from field enclosure) 5-2-7
Suspended player illegally returning 5-2-8-f
unnecessary physical contact with game official 12-3-1-e
Loss of Ball Penalties
Kickers illegally touching free kick before it travels ten yards 6-2-4
Disqualification for Entire Game
Repeat violation by player wearing or displaying illegal equipment 5-4-9
Actions to conserve time 4-7-1
Fouling by defense, illegal touching or fair-catch interfering by offense or fouling by both teams at end of half during play in which time expires (extend quarter) 4-8-2
Team B fouling on Try which fails 11-3-3-Item 4
Committing double foul unless dead-ball fouls by both teams after ball is dead 14-5-1
Team B committing a foul during a Try which would ordinarily result in a safety 11-3-3
Repeated fouling by defense to prevent score 12-3-2
Committing palpably unfair act which deprives opponent of a touchdown (player) 12-3-4
Committing palpably unfair act which deprives opponent of a touchdown (non-player) 13-1-7
Offense fouling anywhere, and spot of enforcement is behind its own goal line 11-5-1 and 14-2-2
Intentional grounding in own end zone 8-2-1
Score Not Allowed
Offending team scores after foul during down in which time expires for half (also no extension of time) 4-8-2-b
Team A committing foul during a Try which would ordinarily result:
in loss of down or in a touchback 11-3-3
in loss of ball in field of play (not during a kick) 11-3-3
Team B recovering ball 11-3-3
New Series Penalties
Team B committing a foul during play from scrimmage giving Team A first down irrespective of distance penalty (automatic first down) 14-1-2
Team B committing a foul not giving Team A first down unless enforcement places ball in advance of necessary line, i.e.,
excess timeout 4-5-4
delay of game 4-6
illegal substitution 5-2-8
illegal equipment (suspension) 5-4-9
neutral zone infraction 7-4-4
Illegal formation 9-1-3
running into kicker 12-2-12
more than eleven players on field at snap or in formation 5-1-1
Team B interfering in field of play with a pass from behind line (distance penalty in addition when personal foul) 8-5-1
Loss of Down and Five
Making a forward pass from scrimmage from beyond the line 8-1-2
Loss of Down and Ten
Intentionally grounds pass (from behind line) 8-2-1
illegally kicked ball 12-5-2
Loss of ball and Fifteen
Interfering with a possible fair catch in field of play (also fair catch) 10-1-1
Five Yards and Automatic First Down
A defensive player holds an opponent who is not the runner 12-1-6
A defensive player illegally contacting an eligible receiver within five yards 8-4-2
A defensive player illegally contacting an eligible receiver beyond five yards 8-4-3
Ten Yards and Automatic First Down
Tripping by a Team B player 12-1-8
Kickers illegally touching kick (not free kick) inside receiver five-yard line 9-2-3-Pen.
Fair-catch interfering or running into maker of in receiver’s end zone 10-1-1
Ball in possession of team behind or out of bounds behind own goal line and impetus which sent it in touch came from player of that team 11-5-1
Kickoff Out of Bounds Between Goal Lines
Receiver’s ball at inbounds spot when last touched by them 6-2-3
Receiver’s ball 25 yards from spot of kick 6-2-3
Ball Remains Dead
Actions which delay game 4-6-1
Snapping before Officials assume normal position 4-6-5-b
Ball Dead Immediately
Committing acts designed to consume time 4-7-1
Kickers recovering free kick 6-1-4-d
Kickers advancing after recovery of a scrimmage kick unless behind line other than a Try-kick (9-3-1) 9-3-2
Any kick touching receiver’s goal post or cross bar unless scoring field goal 6-1-5-c; 9-4-2; and 11-6-2-d
Official sounding whistle (even when inadvertent) 7-2-1-m
Any receiver catching after fair-catch signal unless first touched by kickers 10-2-3
Penalty Enforced From Goal Line
Defense fouling and spot of enforcement is behind goal line of offense 14-2-2
Runner crosses opponent’s goal line and spot of enforcing foul by teammate during run is behind defense goal line 14-2-2
Penalty Enforced on Next Free Kick
A team scoring and opponents commit a personal or unsportsmanlike conduct foul or a palpably unfair act, during down 14-2-3
|Defensive Delay of Game||DOD|
|Defensive Pass Interference||DPI|
|Defensive Too Many Men on Field||DTM|
|Delay of Game||DOG|
|Delay of Kickoff||DOK|
|Facemask (15 Yards)||FMM|
|Fair Catch Interference||FCI|
|Illegal Blindside Block||BLI|
|Illegal Block Above the Waist||IBW|
|Illegal Double Team Block||IDT|
|Illegal Forward Handing||IFH|
|Illegal Forward Pass||IFP|
|Illegal Kick/Kicking Loose Ball||KIK|
|Illegal Peel Back||IPB|
|Illegal Use of Hands||ILH|
|Ineligible Downfield Kick||IDK|
|Ineligible Downfield Pass||IDP|
|Invalid Fair Catch Signal||IFC|
|Kickoff Out of Bounds||KOB|
|Neutral Zone Infraction||NZI|
|Offensive Pass Interference||OPI|
|Offensive Too Many Men on Field||OTM|
|Offside on Free Kick||OFK|
|Player Out of Bounds on Kick||POK|
|Roughing the Kicker||RRK|
|Roughing the Passer||RPS|
|Running into the Kicker||RNK|
|Short Free Kick||SFK|
|Use of Helmet||UOH|
|Green Bay Packers||GB|
|Kansas City Chiefs||KC|
|Las Vegas Raiders||LV|
|Los Angeles Chargers||LAC|
|Los Angeles Rams||LA|
|New England Patriots||NE|
|New Orleans Saints||NO|
|New York Giants||NYG|
|New York Jets||NYJ|
|San Francisco 49ers||SF|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||TB|
|Washington Football Team||WAS|