SECTION 10. Foul and Violation
ARTICLE 1. Foul
A foul is a rule infraction for which a penalty is prescribed.
ARTICLE 2. Personal Foul
A personal foul is a foul involving illegal physical contact that endangers the safety of another player.
ARTICLE 3. Flagrant Personal Foul
A flagrant personal foul is illegal physical contact so extreme or deliberate that it places an opponent in danger of catastrophic injury.
ARTICLE 4. Violation
A violation is a rule infraction for which no penalty is prescribed. Since it is not a foul, it does not offset a foul.
SECTION 11. Fumble, Muff, Batting and Touching the Ball; Blocking a Kick
ARTICLE 1. Fumble
To fumble the ball is to lose player possession by any act other than passing, kicking or successful handing. (A.R. 2-19-2:I) (A.R. 4-1-3:I) The status of the ball is a fumble.
ARTICLE 2. Muff
To muff the ball is to touch the ball in an unsuccessful attempt to catch or recover it. Muffing the ball does not change its status.
ARTICLE 3. Batting
Batting the ball is intentionally striking it or intentionally changing its direction with the hand(s) or arm(s). When in question, the ball is accidentally touched rather than batted. Batting the ball does not change its status.
ARTICLE 4. Touching
- Touching of a ball not in player possession denotes any contact with the ball. It may be intentional or unintentional, and it always precedes possession and control.
- Intentional touching is deliberate or intended touching.
- Forced touching results when a player’s contact with the ball is due to (i) an opponent blocking him into it, or (ii) the ball being batted or illegally kicked into him by an opponent. If the touching is forced, by rule the player in question has not touched the ball. (Rules 6-1-4 and 6-3-4)
- When in question, a ball has not been touched on a kick or forward pass.
Approved ruling 2-11-4
- A punt is rolling along the ground near players A44 and B27 who are engaged. (a) The ball bounces against the leg of B27 and is then recovered by A55 at the B-35. (b) A44 blocks B27 into the ball which is then recovered by A55 at the B-35. RULING: (a) Team A’s ball, first and 10 at the B-35. The ball rolled into B27’s leg but A44’s contact did not cause him to touch the ball. Not forced touching. (b) Forced touching because the block by A44 caused B27 to touch the ball. Illegal touching by A55. Team B’s ball at that point. [Cited by 6-1-4-a, 6-3-4-a]
ARTICLE 5. Blocking a Scrimmage Kick
Blocking a scrimmage kick is touching the kicked ball by an opponent of the kicking team in an attempt to prevent the ball from crossing the neutral zone (Rule 6-3-1-b).
SECTION 12. Lines
ARTICLE 1. Sidelines
A sideline runs from end line to end line on each side of the field and separates the field of play from the area that is out of bounds. The entire sideline is out of bounds.
ARTICLE 2. Goal Lines and pylons
The goal line at each end of the field of play runs between the sidelines and is part of the vertical plane that separates the end zone from the field of play. The plane of the goal line extends between and includes the pylons, which are out of bounds. The two goal lines are 100 yards apart (normally). The entire goal line is in the end zone.
A team’s goal line is that which it is defending.
Approved ruling 2-12-2
- Team A’s untouched scrimmage kick strikes the ground in the field of play and breaks the plane of Team B’s goal line. While the ball is in the air over the end zone, A81, who is either on the one-yard line or in the end zone, bats the ball into the field of play. RULING: Violation for illegal touching (Rule 6-3-11). Team B may accept the result of the play or next snap the ball at its 20-yard line (Exception: Rule 8-4-2-b). [Cited by 6-3-11, 6-3-2-a]
ARTICLE 3. End Lines
An end line runs between the sidelines normally 10 yards behind each goal line and separates the end zone from the area that is out of bounds. The entire end line is out of bounds.
ARTICLE 4. Boundary Lines
The boundary lines are the sidelines and the end lines. The area enclosed by the boundary lines is “in bounds”, and the area surrounding and including the boundary lines is “out of bounds”.
ARTICLE 5. Restraining Lines
A restraining line is part of a vertical plane that limits a team’s alignment for free kicks. The plane extends beyond the sidelines.
Approved ruling 2-12-5
ARTICLE 6. Yard Lines
A yard line is any line in the field of play parallel to the end lines. A team’s own yard lines, marked or unmarked, are numbered consecutively from its own goal line to the midfield line.
ARTICLE 7. Hash Marks
The two hash marks are 60 feet from the sidelines. Hash marks and short yard-line extensions shall measure 24 inches in length.
ARTICLE 8. Nine-Yard Marks
Nine-yard marks 12 inches in length, every 10 yards, shall be located nine yards from the sidelines. They are not required if the field is numbered according to Rule 1-2-1-j.
SECTION 13. Handing the Ball
- Handing the ball is transferring player possession from one teammate to another without throwing, fumbling or kicking it.
- Except when permitted by rule, handing the ball forward to a teammate is illegal.
- Loss of player possession by unsuccessful execution of attempted handing is a fumble by the last player in possession (Exception: The snap (Rule 2-23-1-c)).
- A backward handoff occurs when the ball carrier releases the ball before it is beyond the yard line where the ball carrier is positioned.
SECTION 14. Huddle
SECTION 15. Hurdling
- Hurdling is an attempt by a player to jump with one or both feet or knees foremost over an opponent who is still on his feet (Rule 9-1-13).
- “On his feet” means that no part of the opponent’s body other than one or both feet is in contact with the ground.
SECTION 16. Kicks; Kicking the Ball
ARTICLE 1. Kicking the Ball; Legal and Illegal Kicks
- Kicking the ball is intentionally striking the ball with the knee, lower leg or foot.
- A legal kick is a punt, drop kick or place kick made according to the rules by a player of Team A before a change of team possession. Kicking the ball in any other manner is illegal. (A.R. 6-1-2:I)
- Any free kick or scrimmage kick continues to be a kick until it is caught or recovered by a player or becomes dead.
- When in question, a ball is accidentally touched rather than kicked.
ARTICLE 2. Punt
A punt is a kick by a player who drops the ball and kicks it before it touches the ground.
ARTICLE 3. Drop Kick
A drop kick is a kick by a player who drops the ball and kicks it as it touches the ground.
ARTICLE 4. Place Kick
- A field goal place kick is a kick by a player of the team in possession while the ball is controlled on the ground by a teammate. (Rule
- A free kick place kick is a kick by a player of the team in possession while the ball is positioned on a tee or the ground. It may be controlled by a teammate. The ball may be positioned on the ground and contacting the tee.
- A tee is a device that elevates the ball for kicking purposes. It may not elevate the ball’s lowest point more than one inch above the ground. (A.R. 2-16-4:I)
- No device or material may be used to mark the spot of a scrimmage place kick or to elevate the ball. This is a live-ball foul at the snap. (Rule 6-3-10-d)
Approved ruling 2-16-4
ARTICLE 5. Free Kick
- A free kick is a kick by a player of the team in possession made under restrictions specified in Rules 4-1-4, 6-1-1 and 6-1-2.
- A free kick after a safety may be a punt, drop kick or place kick.
ARTICLE 6. Kickoff
A kickoff is a free kick that starts each half and follows each try or successful field goal attempt (Exception: In extra periods).It must be a place kick or a drop kick.
ARTICLE 7. Scrimmage Kick
- A scrimmage kick is a punt, drop kick or field goal place kick. It is a legal kick if it is made by Team A in or behind the neutral zone during a scrimmage down before team possession changes.
- A scrimmage kick has crossed the neutral zone when it touches the ground, a player, an official or anything beyond the neutral zone (Exception: Rule 6-3-1-b). (A.R. 6-3-1:I-IV)
- A scrimmage kick made when the kicker’s entire body is beyond the neutral zone is an illegal kick and a live-ball foul that causes the ball to become dead (Rule 6-3-10-c).
ARTICLE 8. Return Kick
A return kick is a kick by a player of the team in possession after change of team possession during a down. It is an illegal kick and a live-ball foul that causes the ball to become dead (Rule 6-3-10-b).
ARTICLE 9. Field Goal Attempt
A field goal attempt is a scrimmage kick. It may be a place kick or a drop kick.
ARTICLE 10. Scrimmage Kick Formation
- A scrimmage kick formation is a formation with no player in position to receive a hand-to-hand snap from between the snapper’s legs, and with either (1) at least one player seven or more yards behind the neutral zone; or (2) a potential holder and potential kicker five or more yards behind the neutral zone in position for a place kick. For either (1) or (2) to qualify as a scrimmage kick formation, it must be obvious that a kick will be attempted. (A.R. 9-1-14:I-III)
- If Team A is in a scrimmage kick formation at the snap, any action by Team A during the down is deemed to be from a scrimmage kick formation.
Approved ruling 2-16-10
- At the snap Team A has four linemen numbered between 50-79 and three linemen numbered outside this range. A potential kicker is six yards deep but there is no potential holder. RULING: Illegal formation. Team A is not in a scrimmage kick formation and does not have the required number of linemen with proper jersey numbers.
SECTION 17. The Neutral Zone
- The neutral zone is the space between the two scrimmage lines extended to the sidelines. Its width is equal to the length of the ball (Rule 2-21-2).
- The neutral zone is established when the ball is ready for play and is resting on the ground with its long axis at right angles to the scrimmage line and parallel to the sidelines.
- The neutral zone exists until there is a change of team possession, until a scrimmage kick crosses the neutral zone, or until the ball is declared dead.
SECTION 18. Encroachment and Offside
ARTICLE 1. Encroachment
After the ball is ready for play, encroachment occurs when an offensive player is in or beyond the neutral zone after the snapper touches or simulates (hand(s) at or below his knees) touching the ball before the snap (Exception: When the ball is put in play, the snapper is not encroaching when he is in the neutral zone).
ARTICLE 2. Offside on a scrimmage play
After the ball is ready for play, offside occurs (Rule 7-1-5) when a defensive player:
- Is in or beyond the neutral zone when the ball is legally snapped;
- Contacts an opponent beyond the neutral zone before the ball is snapped;
- Contacts the ball before it is snapped;
- Threatens an offensive lineman, causing an immediate reaction, before the ball is snapped (A.R. 7-1-3:V Note);
- Crosses the neutral zone and charges toward a Team A back (A.R. 7-1-5:III).
ARTICLE 3. Offside on a free kick play
After the ball is ready for play, offside occurs (Rule 6-1-2) when:
- A defensive player is not behind his restraining line when the ball is legally free-kicked.
- One or more players of the kicking team are not behind their restraining line when the ball is legally free-kicked (Exception: The kicker and holder are not offside when they are beyond their restraining line) (Rule 6-1-2).
SECTION 19. Passes
ARTICLE 1. Passing
Passing the ball is throwing it. A pass continues to be a pass until it is caught or intercepted by a player or the ball becomes dead.
ARTICLE 2. Forward and Backward Pass
a. A pass is forward if the ball first strikes the ground, a player, an official or anything else beyond the spot where the ball is released. All other passes are backward passes. When in question, a pass thrown in or behind the neutral zone is forward rather than backward (Exception: Games using a Video Judge).
b. When a Team A player is holding the ball to pass it forward toward the neutral zone, any intentional forward movement of his hand or arm with the ball firmly in his control starts the forward pass. If a Team B player contacts the forward passer or ball after forward movement begins and the ball leaves the forward passer’s hand, a forward pass is ruled regardless of where the ball strikes the ground or a player.
c. When in question, the ball is passed and not fumbled during an attempted forward pass (Exception: Games using a Video Judge).
d. A snap becomes a backward pass when the snapper releases the ball, other than via a hand-to-hand exchange. (A.R. 2-23-1:I)
Approved ruling 2-19-2
ARTICLE 3. Crosses Neutral Zone
a. A legal forward pass has crossed the neutral zone when it first strikes the ground, a player, an official or anything beyond the neutral zone inbounds. It has not crossed the neutral zone when it first strikes the ground, a player, an official or anything in or behind the neutral zone inbounds.
b. A player has crossed the neutral zone if his entire body has been beyond the neutral zone.
c. A legal forward pass is beyond or behind the neutral zone where it crosses the sideline.
ARTICLE 4. Catchable Forward Pass
A catchable forward pass is an untouched legal forward pass beyond the neutral zone to an eligible player who has a reasonable opportunity to catch the ball. When in question, a legal forward pass is catchable.