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Football Basics…
In a game of football, one team of players tries to score points by putting the ball in their opponents' "end
zone" using any combination of "running plays" and "passing plays", or by kicking the ball over the crossbar
and through a set of upright "goal posts" at the back of that end zone. The opposing team tries to prevent
them from doing any of those things, and then regain possession of the ball for themselves so that they can
try to score points.
We’ve made this booklet of “Football Basics” for you, so that you can start to learn about all the cool things
that make football the fun and exciting game it is – and so you can also start to become the very best
football player you can be!!
Here are some of the basics of the game of football:


Each team has 11 players on the field at any given time. They can be frequently exchanged with other
teammates who remain on the side of the field while not actually playing.
When a team has the ball in their possession, it is referred to as the "offensive" team, or "offense".
When a team does not have the ball in its possession, it is referred to as the "defensive" team, or
"defense".
A football field is just over fifty yards wide (53 1/3, actually!), and one hundred yards long between
end zones. Each end zone is 10 yards deep, making the field 120 yards long in total!

A regulation NFL football is 11-11.25 inches long and weighs 14-15 ounces. The football we play
with in Middle School Football is 10-10.5 inches long and weighs 12-13 ounces.

Football Sizes…

A Pee-Wee size football is 7-7.5 inches long and weighs 10-11 ounces. Pee-Wee size footballs
are used by 6-9 year olds.

Pee Wee
Wilson = K2

A Junior size football is 8-8.5 inches long and weighs 11-12 ounces. Junior size footballs are
used by 9-12 year olds.

Junior
Wilson = TDJ

A Youth size football is 9-9.5 inches long and weighs 12-13 ounces. Youth size footballs are used
by 12-14 year olds.

Youth
Wilson = TDY

A High School size football is 10-10.5 inches long and weighs 13-14 ounces. HS size footballs are
used at the JV and Varsity levels of High School football.

High School
Wilson = TDS

College: A regulation NCAA football is 11-11.25 inches long and weighs 14-15 ounces.

National Football League: A regulation NFL football is 11-11.25 inches long and weighs 14-15 ounces.

Football Uniforms…

Football Basics
The fields the game is played on…
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL FIELD

NFHS Field Markings
Length: 360 feet (120 yards)
Width: 160 feet (53 1/3 yards)
Numbers: 6 feet tall X 4 feet wide.
(Bottom of numbers: 7 yards from
sideline, Top of numbers: 9 yards
from sideline)
Hash marks:
53’, 4” (17.7 yards) from sideline;
53’, 4” (17.7 yards) wide
Goal posts: 23’ 4” (7.8 yards) wide;

20 feet tall; crossbar 10 feet tall

COLLEGE FOOTBALL FIELD

NCAA Field Markings
Length: 360 feet (120 yards)
Width: 160 feet (53 1/3 yards)
Numbers: 6 feet tall X 4 feet wide.
(Bottom of numbers: 7 yards from
sideline, Top of numbers: 9 yards
from sideline)
Hash marks:
60 feet (20 yards) from sideline;
40 feet (13.3 yards) wide
Goal posts: 18’ 6” (6.2 yards) wide;

30 feet tall; crossbar 10 feet tall

PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL FIELD

NFL Field Markings
Length: 360 feet (120 yards)
Width: 160 feet (53 1/3 yards)
Numbers: 6 feet tall X 4 feet wide.
(Bottom of numbers: 12 yards from
sideline, Top of numbers: 14 yards
from sideline)
Hash marks:
70’ 9” (23.6 yards) from sideline;
18’ 6” (6.2 yards) wide
Goal posts: 18’ 6” (6.2 yards) wide;

35 feet tall; crossbar 10 feet tall

Football Basics
How the game is played…
At each different level of football (recreational, middle school, high school, collegiate, and professional), the
rules of the game are basically the same. And, while there are some adjustments as you move from level to
level (such as: length of quarters, enforcement of penalties, width of the uprights, etc.), the basic goal of
playing remains the same - try to score points for your team, and stop the other team from scoring points…
If your team is more successful doing this than your opponent is, your team wins!
Timing – Though the length of the game varies from level to level, the basics of how it’s run stays the same every game is divided into four quarters, with each quarter lasting a specific length of time. At the NFL and
collegiate (NCAA) levels quarters are 15 mintues long. At the varsity high school level, the quarters are 12
minutes in length (with JV quarters being 10 minutes each). We play 8 minute quarters at the middle school
and recreational levels. While these times sound short and it would seem that games would be over pretty
quickly, that’s not really the case. The average NFL and NCAA game last from three to four hours (with two
to three hours for the high school level). This additional length is due to all the possible stoppages of play
that can happen during a game. The game clock stops anytime the ball goes out of bounds, a penalty is called, a
pass is incomplete, the ball changes possession, a team calls a timeout, or for any other official stoppage of
the clock. College and professional games are also stopped for media (or TV) timeouts. This means that there
are built-in game timeouts for the networks broadcasting the game to air commercials. These “TV Timeouts”
usually happen after either team scores, a quarter ends or when teams switch possession. In an effort to
keep the pace of the game going though, there is another clock that runs through the whole game – this clock
is called the play clock. The play clock is used to time the space between plays. Under National Federation of
High School play (meaning rec, middle and high school – also known as NFHS) the play clock is the 25 second
window from the time the officials spot the ball (mark the ball ready for play, and blow the “Ready for Play”
whistle) that the offense has to run a play. This play clock nearly doubles to 40 seconds at the NCAA and NFL
levels.
There is also another occurrence in each game that lengthens the total time, and this is called halftime.
Between the 2nd and 3rd quarters both teams get an extended break (halftime) in which players have an
opportunity to rest up, take note of injuries and coaches have time to make adjustments to strategy and
personnel. During most halftimes, while the two teams are in their locker room (or down in the endzone),
there is usually some sort of exhibition or show that is put on by either by the home team’s marching band or
cheerleaders (or some other entertainment group, like at the Super Bowl).
Another thing that can lengthen total game time is the fact that each team has the ability to stop the clock
three times in each half. This is done by taking a timeout. Either team may call a timeout at any time (as long
as the play has not already started). Timeouts do not carry over from the first half into the second half (or
from the second half into overtime, if there is overtime). Speaking of which…
If the game is tied at the end of regulation time, the game is extended to an overtime session. While the
specific overtime setup varies for each level, all overtime periods start with a coin flip (just as the beginning
of a game) to determine which team starts on offense and which starts on defense. While NFHS gives each
state the option of how they want to resolve a tied game at the high school level, most states (including
Delaware) use the “Kansas Tie Breaker” (this method gives each team an opportunity to score). The team that
gains possession first (as determined with the coin flip) will start on the opponent's ten yard-line, which gives
them four downs to score points. The offense can either attempt to score a touchdown or field goal. At the
end of those four downs (barring penalties), their opponent then gets the ball at the ten yardline, and then
has a chance to score to either win the game, tie or lose (depending on what their opponent did). If at the end
of one overtime, both teams are still tied, a second overtime period will begin. Overtime periods will continue
until one team has more points. There is no overtime at the middle school level, though, so any of our games
that are tied at the end of regulation will end in a tie.

Football Basics
continued…
The game is further divided into plays. Each time the ball is snapped it is considered a play. Most of these
plays are considered scrimmage downs. A scrimmage down begins at the location on the field that the officials
determine to be the spot of the ball. This spot also establishes the imaginary line called the line of
scrimmage - this line is the dividing line between the offense and defense. This dividing space is the length of
the football (tip to tip), and is known as the neutral zone. The offense must align seven players on the line of
scrimmage prior to the ball being snapped to have a legal offensive formation (and be able to run a legal
offensive play). No offensive player can have any part of their body in the neutral zone at the start of any
play (the exception to this is the center's hand). The offensive players must all become set (or not moving)
prior to the start of every play. (The only exception is when a man is in motion. The offense is allowed to have
one man moving at the start of the play – but this motion man must move parallel or away from the line of
scrimmage – never toward it, as that would be simulating the start of the play, and that’s illegal). Defensive
players have much more flexibility when lining up. They do not have to be set at the start of the play, but
they cannot come across the line of scrimmage or be in the neutral zone when the ball is snapped.
The down begins when the quarterback receives the snap from the center. Following the snap the quarterback
performs his assignment for the play called (handoff, run, pass). The down ends when the ball becomes dead.
A dead ball is defined by any of the following actions: 1) Ball carrier is downed, 2) an incomplete pass, 3) the
ball carrier scores by crossing the goal line, 4) a player receiving a kick signals for a fair catch, 5) a
touchback. Once the ball becomes dead, the ball is spotted at that point. Once the ball is dead, the official
nearest the ball whistles the play and all action on the field to stop. If the ball is dead outside of the hash
marks, the ball is brought back to the nearest hash mark and spotted there. This spot becomes the new line
scrimmage. If the ball is thrown, but not completed, the ball is placed back at the original line of scrimmage.
If an official accidentally or inadvertently blows his whistle, then the ball is dead exactly where it is on the
field when the whistle sounded. If that ball was in mid-air (on a pass), the down is replayed from the start.
Scoring - Points are scored via a touchdown, a field goal, or a safety. Points can also be scored after a
touchdown through an extra point attempt (point after try – or PAT). If a team is tackled in its own end zone
while in possession of the ball, then the team who made the tackle is awarded two points for a safety. A
safety occurs anytime a dead ball occurs in the offense's end zone. There a few penalties that can result in
safeties as well (like a holding call against the offense while the quarterback is in the endzone with the ball).
After a safety a free kick occurs, where the team that forced the safety receives the ball. Field goals are
place kicks from any where on the field. The kicker will try and kick the football over the crossbar and
through the uprights. If the attempt is good, then the team earns three points. If the ball goes into the end
zone, but does not go through the uprights, it is ruled a touchback in high school football and the ball is
spotted at the twenty yardline – in the NFL, the ball is spotted from where it was kicked. If the ball is kicked
but does not go into the end zone and stays in bounds, then that ball is live and is treated just like a punt. If
the field goal is good, then the scoring team will have to kick the ball off to the opponent. Touchdowns are
worth six points. A touchdown is scored when any part of the ball breaks the plane of the goal line while in the
possession of a player on the scoring team. This can occur by a ball carrier taking it across the goal line or a
receiver catching the ball while in the endzone. After the touchdown the scoring team has the opportunity for
a point after try, or conversion. This conversion can be attempted one of two ways, either as an extra point
or as a two-point conversion. An extra point is like a field goal, except it is attempted from the three yard
line (in the NFL it is spotted at the two yard line). If an extra point is successful then the scoring team earns
one additional point. A team can try for two points by running or passing the ball to get it into the endzone
(like a touchdown) from the same spot as the try for point. (At the college level, if a turnover happens during
this two point try, the defense can return it to the opposite endzone and earn two points for themselves – but
this is only at the college level, not high school or the NFL, as at these levels the ball is blown dead if the
offense does not score).

Football Basics
Fouls and Penalties
Game Officials: The guys in the striped shirts who officiate our games are the Game
Officials. The one is the white hat (who stands back behind the quarterback) is the
“Referee”, and he is the head official. The official who stands behind the linebackers is
called the “Umpire”. The official who stands on the line of scrimmage on the side of the
field with the chain crew is the “Head Linesman”. The official who stands on the other end
of the line of scrimmage is the “Line Judge” (he also usually keeps the game clock).
In high school, college football and the NFL there are also three other officials who stand deep in
the defensive backfield: the “Side Judge”, the “Back Judge”, and the “Field Judge”.
When a foul takes place, an official will indicate that by the tossing of a yellow flag onto the field, at the spot
of the foul. The officials will briefly confer to verify the foul and penalty. The result of the foul will then be
explained to the offended team's captain on the field who will make the choice of accepting the penalty, or
declining it (if declining is applicable). The head official (Referee) will then alert both benches and the crowd
of the foul and resulting penalty, mark off the yardage and spot the ball.
General Fouls
Personal fouls: These foul occur when a player creates an unsafe situation with their conduct on the field of
play. Personal foul penalties are fifteen yards and an automatic first down at the NCAA and NFL level
(15 yards and a replay of down at the high school level). Listed below are a few specific personal fouls that
can take place. (Some of these fouls are defense specific, but we’ve placed them under “Personal Fouls” in an
attempt to make understanding these fouls simpler)
1) Roughing the Passer occurs when a defender continues to attack or knock down the quarterback after he
has thrown the football. (Typically, a defender gets one step of continuation of his movement for no foul to be
called – any more than that is usually flagged for roughing.)
2) Roughing the Kicker - same concept as
roughing the passer, just instead of contact with the quarterback, it’s contact with the kicker.
3) Roughing the Snapper occurs on a punt, field goal, or extra point. The long snapper is allowed to regain his
balance and establish a defensive position after a snap, therefore the defenders are not supposed to make
contact with him until that point.
4) Facemasking is one of the most common personal fouls, (where one
player grabs and twists another player's facemask, or gains control of or tackles him by pulling it.) At the
high school and collegiate levels there are also five yard unintentional facemasking calls, if a player grasps but
quickly releases the facemask, with no twisting or pulling.
5) Spearing is an attempt to make a tackle or to
initiate contact with the top of the helmet. This is a VERY dangerous act, and should be avoided at all costs!!!
6) Unnecessary Roughness is any action deemed, as the name indicates, unnecessary. This could include
tackling a player out of bounds, contact after a dead ball, extreme or over aggressive contact with a player
who is nowhere near a play, etc.
Offside: If any part of an offensive or defensive player's body is in the neutral zone at the time the ball is
snapped it is a foul. The penalty is five yards and replay of down. There are a couple of scenarios that are
associated with offsides that can be confusing. One is if a defender is in the neutral zone and then comes out
of the neutral zone, before the ball is snapped, it is not illegal (but only at the NFL and NCAA levels). Also,
when this foul is called, play is not stopped. The play continues, and the offended team will have the choice at
the end of the play. A lot of times you will hear this referred to as a "free play" by commentators because
the offense has a fail-safe with the penalty, no matter what happens on the play. They will, at worst, gain 5
yards.

Football Basics
Fouls and Penalties, continued…
Substitution infraction: If a team has more than eleven players on the field, it is a foul. Five yards and
replay of the down is the penalty.
Illegal participation: This is a rare foul, but can happen. If twelve or more players are on the field and
participate in the play it is a foul. This penalty is fifteen yards. (Rare because a substitution infraction is
usually called before the ball is snapped.)
Holding: This foul occurs (usually on the offense) when a player holds on to or grasps and does not let go of
another player, prohibiting him from going to a certain spot on the field. The penalty is ten yards from the
previous spot, except if the holding occurred past the line of scrimmage. Then the penalty is enforced from
the spot of the foul.
Tripping: Pretty self explanitory. Ten yards in the NFL & NCAA, and fifteen yards at the high school level.
Unsportsmanlike conduct: This foul occurs when when a player, coach, or even sometimes a fan acts in a way
that is in poor conduct or intentionally harmful. The major difference between an unsportsmanlike and a
personal foul is that this foul contains no contact. (If there were contact, it would become a personal foul.)
Unsportsmanlike conduct will be called on a player or coach who is taunting an opponent, or verbally harassing
the officials. The penalty is fifteen yards. In high school, if a player or coach receives two unsportsmanlike
conduct fouls in a single game, the result is an automatic ejection from the game.
Sideline Infraction: If a team or its members are outside of their designated team area on the sidelines, it is
illegal. At the college level, the first foul is five yards, and those there after are fifteen. At the high school
level the team receives a warning before they receive a penalty of fifteen yards.

NOTE: The following blocking fouls do not exist inside the “Tackle Box”. (The “Tackle Box” is the
imaginary area from offensive tackle to offensive tackle down the line of scrimmage extending three
yards across each side of the line of scrimmage – basically a ten yard by six yard rectangle straddling
the LOS). Linemen are pretty much allowed to do anything they want inside this imaginary box!
Illegal block in the back: This foul is committed when a player makes any type of block from behind and
above the waist. The penalty is ten yards.
Clipping: Is the same thing as an illegal block in the back, except that it is below the waist. This penalty is
fifteen yards.
Blocking below the waist: If a block occurs from any direction below the waist of the player being blocked.
This is sometimes called a cut block. The penalty is fifteen yards. This foul is primarily at the high school
level. (Also occurs in a chop block, where one offensive player is in contact high on a defender while another
player blocks him at or below the waist).
Offensive Fouls
False start: If a player who has become set in his stance, moves prior to the snap and it looks like the play is
starting, it is illegal. The penalty for a false start is five yards from the previous spot and replay the down.
Lets use the example of the ball being on a team's own 20 yard line, on first down. If the offense had a false
start or "jumped" then the ball would be moved to the fifteen. It would now be first and fifteen, not first and
ten.
Illegal motion: If an offensive player in motion moves towards the line of scrimmage. Remember, one
offensive player can be in motion at the snap of the play, as long as his motion path does not move him any
closer to the line of scrimmage. The penalty is five yards and replay the down.

Football Basics
Fouls and Penalties, continued…
Illegal formation: If an offensive formation has less than seven players on the line of scrimmage (or five men
in the backfield), it is not a legal formation. In addition, any players wearing inelgible numbers (50-79) must
be lined up on the line of scrimmage only or it is an illegal formation. The penalty is five yards and replay the
down.
Delay of game: When the offense does not get the snap off prior to the play clock expiring, then this foul is
called. A delay of game can also be called on a player after a play. This happens if a player spikes the ball or
otherwise does something which impedes the officials from spotting the football directly. The penalty is five
yards and a replay of the down.
Ineligible receiver downfield: If a player is past the line of scrimmage by more than three yards, he is
considered to be “downfield”. If this player happens to be an ineligible receiver (a covered offensive lineman)
and he passed the line of scrimmage before the quarterback made a forward pass, he is illegally downfield.
On any pass play, the linemen must stay within what’s referred to as the “Tackle Box”. The tackle box is an
imaginary box which extends between each offensive tackle down the line of scrimmage and three yards up
and down the field over that area. If any lineman moves out of this box downfield prior to a pass being
thrown he is considered to be illegally downfield. The penalty for an ineligible receiver downfield is five yards
and replay the down. (The only passing play where a lineman is permitted to be moving through and slightly
beyond the tackle box is what is referred to as a screen pass, in which the ball is passed and caught at or
behind the line of scrimmage.)
Intentional grounding: If a pass is thrown purposely incomplete to an area of the field without any eligible
receiver nearby (in effort to avoid a loss of yardage or to stop the clock), it is a foul. (The exception is when
a quarterback spikes the football to stop the clock.) In the NFL the penalty is ten yards or what is called a
spot foul (this is determined by which penalty provides the greatest loss) and a loss of down. (Meaning, if it
was first down and the quarterback was called for this foul, it would then be second down after the penalty
yardage is added on. If the passer was in the endzone, it is a safety. If the foul occurs with less than a
minute remaining in the first or second halves of the game, the penalty is a run off of ten seconds from the
game clock.) In the NCAA it is an automatic spot foul and a loss of down. At the high school level it is five
yards from the spot of the foul and loss of down. At the NFL and NCAA levels, if the passer has moved out
of the tackle box then there is no foul for intentional grounding, as long as the is ball thrown at or beyond the
line of scrimmage. This stipulation does not exist in NFHS rules, however.
Offensive pass interference: At every level football, both the defender and receiver have a right to a pass
that is in mid-air (like a jump ball in basketball). However, if an offensive player intentionally makes contact
with a defender who is trying to catch the ball, it is a foul. At the NFL level it is a ten yard penalty from the
previous or new spot. At the college level it is fifteen yards from the previous or new spot. At the high school
level it is fifteen yards from the previous spot (no longer a loss of down, as of the 2013 season).
Illegal forward pass: This foul occurs when a passer tries to make a forward pass after he has crossed the
line of scrimmage OR if a forward pass is attempted after one forward pass has already been completed. The
penalty is five yards from the previous spot and a loss of down.

Football Basics
Fouls and Penalties, continued
Defensive Fouls
Encroachment: If a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage and makes contact with an offensive
player (prior to the snap) OR a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage and has a path to the
quarterback (known as unabated) it is a foul. The play is immediately stopped. The penalty is five yards from
the previous spot and replay the down. If (as with any defensive penalty) the yard awarded to the team fouled
creates a first down, then the first down is awarded to the offense.
Neutral zone infraction: If a defensive player is active in the neutral zone prior to the snap, and his
movement or presence in the neutral zone causes an offensive player to false start it is a foul against the
defensive player. The play is immediately stopped, the offense is awarded five yards and a replay of the down.
Delay of game: If a defensive player is impeding the spot of the ball and/or the start of the next play, it is a
delay of game foul against the defense. The penalty is five yards and replay of the down. (This includes
refusing to let an offensive player get up to realign, etc.)
Running into the kicker: If a defender makes contact with a kicker (field goal, extra point, or punt) and the
kicked ball had not yet been touched it is a foul. As long as the officials deem that the contact was not
flagrant, it is a penalty of five yards and replay the down.
Defensive pass interference: If a defender physically prevents a receiver from catching the ball, without he
himself trying to catch it, it is interference. The only exception where contact is allowed, is if the ball had
been touched already (usually tipped by a lineman) by someone other than than quarterback. The penalty for
pass interference varies at the different levels. In the NFL the penalty is an automatic first down and the
ball is spotted at the spot of the foul. At the NCAA level it’s fifteen yards from the previous spot and an
automatic first down. At the high school level it is fifteen yards from the line of scrimmage (no longer an
automatic first down, as of the 2013 season).
Illegal use of the hands: If a defender is using his hands in a manner that is unfair or unsafe it is illegal. The
penalty is five yards and an automatic first down in the NFL, five yards and automatic first down for the
college level, and fifteen yards and automatic first down for the high school level. There are different types
of illegal use of the hands fouls:
1) Defensive holding occurs when a defender grasps and holds an offensive player preventing him from
making a catch or performing a block.
2) Illegal hands to the face occurs when a defender makes contact with his hands to the helmet or head
of an offensive player.
3) Illegal contact occurs when the defenders makes contact with a receiver after five yards from the
line of scrimmage (This is an NFL foul, not NCAA or High School).

Football Basics
Game Officials
3

Visitors Sideline

H L

SJ

R

U

BJ

FJ

L J

Home Sideline

Umpire
Head Linesman

Referee
Line Judge

Referee - This is the Head Official - he wears the white hat and stands in the offensive backfield (on the right side

R

if the quarterback is right-handed passer). The REFEREE gives signals for all penalties and is final authority for rule
interpretations. If you ever need to speak to this official, please address him as “Mr. Referee”.

Umpire - The UMPIRE stands just behind the linebackers, and his main job is to watch for any illegal actions between

U

the tackles across the offensive line. He wears a black hat. If you ever need to speak to this official, please address
him as “Mr. Umpire”.

Head Linesman - The LINESMAN is located at the line of scrimmage on the side of the field where the chains and

HL

down box are. He also wears a black hat. Together with Referee, the Linesman keeps track of number of downs and is
in charge of mechanics of his chain crew in connection with its duties. If you ever need to speak to this official,
please address him as “Mr. Linesman”.

Line Judge - The LINE JUDGE lines up on the line of scrimmage across the field from the Linesman. He keeps the

LJ

time for the game and also watches for offside, encroachment, and actions pertaining to scrimmage line prior to or at
snap. He wears a black hat, too. If you ever need to speak to this official, please address him as “Mr. Line Judge”.
Traditionally, there have been 3 additional officials for higher levels of football - the SIDE JUDGE, the BACK JUDGE
and the FIELD JUDGE, who stand further down the field and watch for fouls on longer passing plays.

Football Officials Positioning & Responsibilities
UPDATED Changes, Additions, etc.
NFHS (High School) - 5 man crew

3

Visitors
Sideline
HL

R
BJ

U

LJ
Home
Sideline

Generally for regular season games there will be a 5 Man Crew, as shown. MPSSAA rules mandate a 6 Man Crew for
all MPSSAA state playoff games (replacing the Back Judge with a Side Judge and a Field Judge).

NCAA (College) - 8 man crew*

3

Visitors
Sideline
HL

SJ

R

BJ

U

C

LJ
FJ
Home
Sideline

Beginning with the 2014 season, the NCAA now allows any conference that wishes to use the eight official system to
do so, adding the position of Center Judge (“C”), who positions in the offensive backfield opposite the Referee (like
the Umpire now does in the NFL).

NFL - 7 man crew
In 2010, the NFL moved Umpires from behind the defensive front seven to behind the offensive backfield,
opposite the Referee.
In four games in the 2010 preseason, the NFL experimented with an eighth official, a Deep Judge, in the
defensive backfield opposite the back judge. Primary responsibility for this new position is the action of
receivers, and it allowed the NFL to adjust coverage after the umpire was moved to the offensive backfield. The
experiment was continued for 12 games in the 2011 preseason. The league has yet to implement such a system for
the regular season or the playoffs

Football Basics: Offense
OFFENSE is when our team has the ball. We’re trying to run and pass the ball down the
field and into the END ZONE to score points!
There are 11 players on the field on offense – and each player has a certain POSITION to
play.
All players on offense (and defense!) need to be lined up on or behind the imaginary line
that starts at the football and runs to both sidelines – it’s called the “line of scrimmage”.
There are seven positions on the OFFENSIVE LINE. These OFFENSIVE LINMEN stand
just behind the LINE OF SCRIMMAGE, and their job is to BLOCK for the players behind
them (who will run and throw the ball!).
CENTER

The CENTER lines up over the football, and he is in the middle of the OFFENSIVE
LINE (3 players to his right, three to his left!). He is the player who snaps the ball to
the QUARTERBACK.

GUARDS

There are two GUARDS, and they line up on each side of the CENTER.

TACKLES

There are also two TACKLES, and they line up next to each GUARD.

These players are usually know as LINEMEN (or together as the OFFENSIVE LINE). They may move ahead to block
defensive players on all running plays, but they must stay at or behind the LINE OF SCRIMMAGE on all PASS PLAYS (until
the ball has been thrown across the LINE OF SCRIMMAGE, then they can run downfield to block!). They are also not
allowed to catch (or even touch!) any FORWARD PASSES – but they can recover any fumbles!!
There are two ENDS who must also be on the LINE OF SCRIMMAGE, too. They can line up close to
the TACKLES (this makes them TIGHT ENDS), or they can line up split away from the TACKLES
(this makes them SPLIT ENDS) – but, either way, they must be on the LINE OF SCRIMMAGE!

ENDS

There must always be one END on each end of our OFFENSIVE LINE.
ENDS block like the other OFFENSIVE LINEMEN on RUNNING PLAYS, but on PASS PLAYS they
are allowed to run downfield to catch passes!! (All the other linemen can’t!!!)

There are four positions in the OFFENSIVE BACKFIELD:
QUARTERBACK

The QUARTERBACK lines up behind the CENTER (and takes the snap from him). The
QUARTERBACK hands the ball off to any of the other backs, or he can throw a pass… or he can
also run the ball himself.

FULL BACK

The FULLBACK is the running back who usually lines up behind the QUARTERBACK. He can take a
HANDOFF from the QUARTERBACK, and he can also BLOCK for the other backs. The FULLBACK
can also go downfield to catch passes!

HALF BACK

The HALFBACK is the running back who also lines up behind the QUARTERBACK, either next to
(or behind) the FULLBACK. He can take a HANDOFF from the QUARTERBACK, and he can also
BLOCK for the other backs. The HALF BACK can also go downfield to catch passes!

WING BACK

The WING BACK is the running back who usually lines up behind the TIGHT END or TACKLE. He
can take a HANDOFF from the QUARTERBACK, and he can also BLOCK for the other backs. The
WING BACK can also go downfield to catch passes, too!

Offensive Stuff to Remember…

The offensive team has 4 opportunities, or "downs", to advance the ball 10 yards
or more from the spot where they took possession of it. If it succeeds, it
receives 4 more chances (downs) to advance the ball another 10 or more yards.
After a play, the officials measure how far the ball has been advanced and grant a
"first down" for 10 yards or more. The quest for a first down always begins from
where the ball was stopped during the previous play.

If an offensive team is less than 10 yards from the opposing team's end zone, it
only needs to reach the end zone to score. They do not have to advance the ball a
full 10 yards.

The offensive team will generally advance the ball by handing it off to a "runner"
or by "passing" (throwing) it to a "receiver." Doing either is called "running a play".
The play begins when the ball is "snapped" and given to the "quarterback." It ends
when the player with possession of the ball is tackled ("downed") or if an official
blows the whistle to halt play. A series of forward plays run in succession is called
a "drive".

When a player in possession of the ball runs or falls out of the playing area, that
player is "out of bounds". Play (and the clock) is stopped, and the officials place
the ball back on the field at the point where it left. This is often used, especially
near the end of a half, as a strategy where a player will purposely go out of
bounds in order to stop play (and the clock!). This gains more time for his team to
run additional plays and attempt to score.

Penalties are called, when observed by the officials, for infractions of the rules.
Penalties are common, and generally take the form of loss of yardage, or loss of a
down. This often results in a team will having to gain more than 10 yards to make a
first down. Another way that teams find themselves in that situation is if a
quarterback, runner or receiver loses yardage by being tackled behind the "line of
scrimmage" (the imaginary line through the spot of the ball at the point from
which the play was started).

Did you know…?
That American Football running back position names evolved from the names of rugby
positions? In the late 1800’s, as rugby became more sophisticated, backs positioned at
different depths behind the forwards were labeled for those distances, giving rise to
the names ¼ back, ½ back, and full back, in England and Scotland –
or quarterback, halfback, and fullback in the Ireland…!

Football Basics: Defense
DEFENSE is when the other team has the ball. We’re trying to stop them from running and
passing the ball down the field and into the END ZONE to score points!
There are 11 players on the field on defense – and each player has a certain POSITION to play.
All players on defense (just like offense!) need to be lined up on or behind the imaginary line
that starts at the football and runs to both sidelines – it’s called the “line of scrimmage”.
There are six positions on the DEFENSIVE LINE. These DEFENSIVE LINMEN stand just
behind the LINE OF SCRIMMAGE, and their job is to TACKLE the player on the other team
who has the ball!
DEFENSIVE
GUARDS

These two players line up directly across from the OFFENSIVE GUARDS (the players on each
side of the center!). If we have just one lined up over the CENTER, he’s the NOSE GUARD.

DEFENSIVE
TACKLES

There are also two DEFENSIVE TACKLES, and they line up next to each DEFENSIVE GUARD
(and directly across from the OFFENSIVE TACKLES).

DEFENSIVE
ENDS

There are two DEFENSIVE ENDS who line up next to the DEFENSIVE TACKLES (and usually right
across from the TIGHT ENDS).

There are three different types of positions in the DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD:
LINEBACKERS

DEFENSIVE
BACKS:
- Cornerbacks
- Safeties

LINEBACKERS line up behind the DEFENSIVE LINE (usually at about three yards) and can be
stacked behind DEFENSIVE LINEMEN, gapped in between them, or a combination of both.
LINEBACKERS have both run and pass defense responsibilities, and can also BLITZ to put added
pressure on the QUARTERBACK on passing plays.

CORNERBACKS line up on the edges of the defense, usually directly across from any offensive
players (SPLIT ENDS, FLANKERS and/or SLOT RECEIVERS) spread out away from interior
OFFENSIVE LINE (CENTER, GUARDS, and TACKLES), and anywhere form two to six yards deep.
CORNERBACKS also have both run and pass coverage responsibilities (in both MAN-TO-MAN and
ZONE PASS COVERAGE).
SAFETIES usually line up from six to twelve yards behind the DEFENSIVE LINE (three to nine
yards behind the LINEBACKERS), and are usually aligned over a TIGHT END, WINGBACK, or
SLOT BACK. Like CORNERBACKS, SAFETIES also have both run and pass coverage
responsibilities (in both MAN-TO-MAN and ZONE PASS COVERAGE).

“Zone” Defense means stay in your “zone” (area) until the ball is thrown – then defense the pass if it’s
thrown into your zone (or run toward the person it’s thrown to outside your zone) and tackle any
receiver who catches it!
“Man-to-Man” Defense means follow and guard your “man” wherever he goes on the football field, and
do your best to keep him from catching the ball if it’s thrown to him. Don’t stop guarding your “man”
until you know the ball has been thrown to someone else – then go tackle that person as quick as you can!!

REMEMBER: ALL players on defense can recover fumbles and return interceptions!

Defensive Stuff to Remember…
-

The defensive team tries to stop the offense from advancing the ball.
Defensive players may tackle any player that has the ball, or try to prevent a
thrown ball from reaching its intended target. They cannot physically interfere
with an offensive receiver to prevent a player from catching it, but they can
tackle or hit that player hard enough to make them drop it before they have
the ball under control. They may also attempt to cause a "fumble" by knocking
the ball out of any offensive player's grasp.

-

The defensive team has a tremendous number of alignment combinations that
can be used. The most common way to identify these defenses is by counting
the number of defensive linemen and linebackers that are on the field in that
defense. For example, if there are four defensive linemen and three
linebackers, this is referred to as a 4-3 defense. If there are three defensive
linemen and four linebackers, it’s a 3-4. Other combinations are the 5-3, 4-4,
6-2, etc.

-

To determine when a play ends, a ball carrier must be considered down. To
determine a downed player, one of a few things must happen. A player can be
down by contact, which means that if the ball carrier is taken to the ground
by the act of grabbing, pulling, pushing, or running into by another player, he is
down. If the ball carrier's body touches the ground (except the hands and
feet) by the act of falling or slipping, he is down. (In the NFL, a player can
touch the ground with any part of his body and not be down, as long as a player
from the other team has not caused or touched him while he is touching the
ground. The exception to this, is if the a player intentionally touches the
ground, via taking a knee or sliding – that’s called “giving yourself up”). A
player can also be down if any part of his body goes out of bounds. The sideline
itself, the white line surrounding the field, is out of bounds - meaning if a
player touches it, he is “out of bounds”. A player also can be considered down
during another scenario as well - If the ball carrier's forward progress is
stopped or halted with no chance of gaining anymore ground this makes him
“down”, even if no part of his body has touched the ground. If the ball carrier
is driven back, after he considered down, then ball is spotted where his
forward progress stopped.

Did you know…?
That the term “Nickle” defense was coined because it meant substituting a fifth
defensive back into the game for a linebacker… Or that term “Dime” Package came from
subbing in another defensive back (as in, “Two nickels make a…”…!!!)

Football Basics: Special Teams
SPECIAL TEAMS take the field whenever we have to KICK the ball to the other team,
whenever we SCORE a TOUCHDOWN, try a FIELD GOAL, or PUNT - and whenever the
other team has to kick the ball to us! Some of our SPECIAL TEAMS include:
• Kick Off Team
• Kick Off Return Team
• Punt Team
• Punt Return Team
• Placekick Team (PAT or Field Goal)
• Placekick Defense (PAT or Field Goal)
A coin is tossed before the game. The team that correctly calls the coin flip has four options to start the
first half of the game: kick the ball to the other team, make the other team kick the ball to them, choose to
defend a specific END ZONE (North or South), or wait until the start of the second half to decide what they
want to do (that’s called “deferring”…). Whichever team loses the coin toss has first choice of whatever
options weren’t taken (as well as first choice of options to start the second half!).

If we’re KICKING OFF, our KICK OFF team would line up behind our 40 yard line and kick the ball to
the other team (who has it’s first line of players standing at the 50 – remember, they have to be 10
yards away from the ball!). All of the players on our KICK OFF team run downfield and tackle the ball
carrier!

If we’re getting the ball kicked to us on a KICK OFF, our KICK OFF RETURN team lines up beginning
at the 50 yard line back towards our own endzone. We want to catch the ball when it’s kicked to us
and return it as far back up the field as we can up the field!

Once we have the ball on OFFENSE, we try to move it up the field. For the most part, a team will only
use 3 of its 4 downs to attempt to gain at least 10 yards. If unsuccessful, it will then "punt" (kick) the
ball on 4th down. Why? Because if a team runs or passes on the 4th down and doesn't gain the yards it
needs to earn a first down and maintain possession, the other team gets the ball from wherever the
offense last had it! So, if the offensive team does not believe that it will successfully gain those
yards, and punts the ball on 4th down, chances are that the punt will travel twenty or more yards.
This means that the opposing team is now about twenty yards further away from where they would
have been had the offensive team run and passed for less than 10 yards in 4 downs.

When a punt is attempted, both teams send players onto the field whose skills are best suited to the
situation. When one team punts the ball, the other team attempts to catch it, and runs as far as
possible back towards the opposing end zone. From that point, the receiving team becomes the
offensive team and starts their own new series of downs.

A field goal is scored by kicking the football within a certain area of the goal posts. This area begins
just over the 10 foot high horizontal bar and extends between the two vertical ones, a span of 23 feet
and 4 inches in NFHS play (18 feet 6 inches at the NCAA and NFL levels).

Special teams also appear after a team has scored any points. The team that just scored those points
kicks the ball off to the other team (just like at the start of the game - or after halftime!).

REALLY “SPECIAL” SPECIAL TEAMS…

A “SAFETY” is scored when a team is tackled in it’s own endzone with the ball – the other team gets
two points AND the ball!! The team that got tackled in the endzone has to kickoff from it’s own 20
yardline (the other team’s return team lines up beginning at the 30 yard line…)

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