(redirected from AmericanFootball)

[Home]American football

HomePage | Recent Changes | Preferences

Sometimes known outside of North America as Gridiron Football, American Football is a sport in which two teams fight for control of an oblate spheroid ball (a direct descendant of a size 3 rugby ball), which they have to carry in the arms and/or pass to another player (only one forward pass permitted per football play.

American football is played at several levels in the United States: from [Pop Warner]? youth leagues to teams from [high schools]? to teams from colleges and universities (popularly known as College Football) to teams of professional players. The most prominent professional league is the National Football League in the United States. Other leagues appear from time to time, such as the XfL. In the 1960s, American football replaced baseball as the most popular sport in the United States.

Field of Play

The game is played on a rectangular field that is 100 yards long and 53 1/3 yards wide. The sidelines are the end boundaries that run 100 yards along the length of the rectangle. At each end of the rectangle, 100 yards apart from each other, are the goal lines.

Yard lines are painted, every five yards, across the length of the field to identify the distance from the goal lines. At midfield is located the 50 yard line, and from there the line numbers are counted downward in each direction towards the two goal lines. In addition, hash marks are painted along the sideline to identify the individual yards that fall between the successive 5 yard lines.

Behind each goal line is a 10 yard deep rectangular area known as the end zone. Although a football play never begins in an end zone, it is possible for a play to take place there after the ball is snapped. At the rear of the end zone is a set of goal posts.

Play Of The Game (NFL rules)

Each team places eleven players on the field during the course of play. A game is 60 minutes long, and is divided into two halves and four quarters. The game begins with a kick off, in which one team kicks the ball from their own 30-yard line. The ball must be kicked from the ground (not punted) and in bounds at least 10 yards away, or else the receiving team takes possession of the ball thirty yards away from the original spot of the kick off. The ball is live and can be fielded by either team, but because it is generally difficult for the kicking team to successfully recover the kick, the kicking team normally kicks the ball to the other team as far as possible toward the opposition goal line. If a team instead kicks the ball the minimum ten yards and tries to recover their own kick, this is known as an onside kick, and is usually only attempted when the team is behind in the score late in the game.

The team in possession of the ball is given four attempts (known as "downs") to move the ball a total of 10 yards towards the opposition end of the field. Each new play begins at the yard line where the previous play ended; this is known as the line of scrimmage. Succesfully reaching ten yards results in the awarding of four more downs to make another ten yards. A new set of four downs is known as a first down. Failure in achieving a first down results in the possesion of the ball being handed to the opposition at current line of scrimmage. If a team has not achieved a first down by the third attempt, it may decide to kick the ball away on the fourth one (this is known as a punt), rather than running a normal play to advance the ball. The purpose of punting is to put the opponent in worse field position than they would be through turning the ball over at the line of scrimmage after a fourth down failure to achieve a new first down.

If the ball is moved over the opposition's goal line (into the "End Zone") whilst in possesion of a player a "touchdown", worth 6 points, is scored. Scoring a touchdown entitles the team to a kick at goal (for one point) a single play for the End Zone (a two-point conversion). After a score, the scoring team restarts play with a kick off.

A team can also score three points by kicking the ball between the goalposts. This is known as a field goal. Teams normally only attempt to kick a field goal if it is fourth down, or if time is running out in the half or the game. Field goal attempts must be made with the ball touching the ground, so one player holds the ball on the ground steady while another player kicks it. Failed field goal attempts can be returned by the opponent, but this is rare; normally, the ball is turned over to the other team at the line of scrimmage. After a successful field goal, the scoring team then issues a kick off.

A kick off also occurs at the start of the second half.

If a player in possession of the ball is tackled in his own end zone, this is a safety, worth two points to the other team. The team that was in possession of the ball must then kick it away from their own 20 yard line. Normally, this is done with a punt.

The team with possesion is called the "offensive team", and that without the "defensive team". Typically two distinct corps of players are used for these two roles. All field players are allowed to be substituted for after any play; players may re-enter the game after any play.

Moving the Ball

There are two basic methods of moving the ball down the field.


Rules infractions during a previous play result in the offending team being penalized a certain amount of yards. Normally, the down number remains the same as it was before the previous play, unless a defensive penalty causes a first down to take place. Certain types of penalties require a loss of down, however. In addition, unless the penalty took place before the play actually started, the opposing team normally has the option of declining a penalty if the result of the previous play was more beneficial to it than the yard penalization would be. Referees signal an infraction by throwing a yellow flag onto the field.

Rules infractions which involve the details of of game protocol are considered less serious than personal fouls, which involve physical actions which could endanger other players.

The half and the end of the game cannot end on a defensive penalty. In that case, the offense gets another play even though time has run out.

Common penalties include:


Teams are usually divided into three specialist groups: offense, defense and special teams. The offense plays when the team has possession of the ball and attempts to score: the other team's defense attempts to stop them. Special teams are generally involved in kicking situations, either to score points or for field position. Summaries of positions are given here: more detail can be found on individual pages.



Special Teams

You may read and write about individual teams on their respective pages.



Penalties : http://www.nfl.com/fans/rules/penaltysummaries.html


HomePage | Recent Changes | Preferences
This page is read-only | View other revisions
Last edited December 19, 2001 7:29 am by Egern (diff)