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Rules

  • The game begins with a kick-off where one team punts the ball down field for the other team to then run back with the ball as far as possible.

  • Each team has 4 downs to gain 10 or more yards. They can either throw or run the ball to make the yards. As soon as the team gains the required yards then the downs reset and the yardage resets. Failure to make the yardage after 4 downs will result in a turnover.

  • On fourth down the offense has the option to either try to make up the yards they are short or to kick the ball. If they decide to kick they have two options; to punt or to try for a field goal

Main Penalties

  • Encroachment: When a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage and makes contact with an opponent before the ball is snapped (5 yards)

  • False Start: When an interior lineman on the offensive team moves prior to the snap of the ball, or when any offensive player makes a quick, abrupt movement prior to the snap of the ball. (5 yards)

  • Offside: When any part of a player’s body is beyond the line of scrimmage or free kick line when the ball is put into play (5 yards)

  • Holding (Offensive): When an offensive player uses his hands, arms, or other parts of his body to prevent a defensive player from tackling the ball carrier. (10 yards)

  • Holding (Defensive): When a defensive player tackles or holds an offensive player other than the ball carrier. (5 yards + automatic first down)

  • Pass Interference: A judgment call made by an official who sees a defensive player make contact with the intended receiver before the ball arrives, thus restricting his opportunity to catch the forward pass. (spot of foul + automatic first down)

  • Face Mask: When a player (offense or defense) grabs the face mask of another player while attempting to block or tackle. (15 yards)

  • Roughing the Passer    When a defensive player makes direct contact with the quarterback after the quarterback has released the ball. (15 yards + automatic first down)

  • Personal Foul    An illegal, flagrant foul considered risky to the health of another player.    (15 yards)

  • Delay of Game: When the offense allows the play clock to run out. (5 yards)

Scoring

  • Touchdown (6 Points) - when a team crosses the opposition's goal line with the ball, or catches or collects the ball in the end zone.

  • Field Goal (3 Points) - usually attempted on the fourth down - if the kicker is close enough to the end zone to kick the ball through between the upright posts.

  • Two-Point Conversion (2 Points) - after a touchdown, two points are earned by taking the ball into the end zone again from the 2-yard line.

  • Extra Point (1 Points) - earned by kicking the ball through the uprights after a touchdown 

  • Safety (2 Points) - when the defensive team tackles a member of the offensive team with the ball in their own end zone.

Positions

  • Offense

    • Quarterback (QB) – He calls the plays, initiates action and handles the “snap.” He either hands the ball to the running back or passes the ball to a receiver. He may also run with the ball.

    • Running Back (RB) – Also known as the Halfback. Lining up either behind or beside the quarterback, he runs, catches and blocks. A running back is normally a player who is a quick runner and thrives on contact.

    • Fullback (FB) – A heartier version of the RB, but in the modern game usually more of a lead blocker out of the backfield. Fullbacks are normally good runners with exceptional strength.

    • Offensive Line – There are five offensive linemen. In order from left to right, they are: the Left Tackle (LT), Left Guard (LG), Center (C), Right Guard (RG) and Right Tackle (RT). It is their job to either pass block for the QB so he has time to throw or run block for the RB or FB. Most of the time, with the exception of the Center “snapping” the ball to the QB, offensive linemen do not touch the ball. The offensive line is usually made up of the biggest, strongest players on the team.

    • Wide Receivers (WR) – Wide receivers are pass catchers. They start the play split out wide from the rest of the formation, at or near the line of scrimmage (an imaginary line that extends from sideline to sideline at the point where the ball is placed) and run pass routes awaiting a pass from the QB. On running plays, they will throw blocks and occasionally take a handoff.

    • Tight End (TE) – This player is a hybrid between a receiver and an offensive lineman. Generally, he lines up next to the LT or RT or he can “split out” like a wide receiver. His duties include blocking for both the quarterback and the running back.

  • Defense

    • Defensive Line – This is the first line of defense and consists of three or four players who line up opposite the offensive line. They are two Defensive Ends (DE) on either side and one or two Defensive Tackles (DT). Their job is to shed the blocks of the offensive linemen and tackle ball carriers.

    • Linebacker (LB) – Depending on the defensive alignment, there are usually three or four on the field. Outside linebackers (OLB) stand to the sides of the DEs and Inside linebackers (ILB) or middle linebackers (MLB) stand behind the DTs. LBs are usually responsible for shadowing RBs, TEs and sometimes WRs; rushing the passer and tackling ball carriers.

    • Cornerback (CB) – They support the run, and might be asked to blitz the QB, but spend most of their time covering wide receivers. This means they try to break up passes, tackle players who catch passes, and try to intercept passes coming their way. There are usually two to four CBs on the field at a time.

    • Safety (S) – The strong safety (SS) is usually responsible for covering TEs, RBs, and WRs and playing down the field but are often expected to come up in run support. The Free Safety (FS) has similar duties but is commonly considered the center fielder, and thus the last line of the defense.

  • Special Teams

    • Kicker (K) – The kicker is responsible for kickoffs and field goals.

    • Punter (P) – The punter is responsible for kicking the ball away if the offense fails to get a first down.

    • Return Specialists – There are two types of return specialists: Kick Returner (KR) and Punt Returner (PR). These are the players the punter and kicker are kicking to on punts and kickoffs.

    • Long Snapper (LS) – The long snapper begins plays for the kicker and the punter. The long snapper is responsible for “snapping” the ball back to the punter for a punt or a field goal attempt.

Timing

  • College and NFL games are 1 hour long, divided into four quarters of 15 minutes each. In high school football, 12 minute quarters are usually played.

  • For overtime in the NFL regular season: no more than one 10-minute period will follow a three-minute intermission. Each team must possess, or have the opportunity to possess, the ball. The exception: if the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown on the opening possession. In the playoffs, there’s no time limit.

  • For overtime in college, teams trade possession of the ball starting at their opponents 25 until they fail to score, turn over on downs or have a turnover. Once the second overtime begins, teams have to go for two every time. When the third overtime starts, teams only attempt two-point conversions instead of full offensive possessions

Field Overview

Football Field
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