SECTION 1. The Scrimmage
ARTICLE 1. Starting with a Snap
- The ball shall be put in play by a legal snap unless the rules provide for a legal free kick. (A.R. 4-1-4:I and II)
- No player shall put the ball in play before it is ready for play (Rule 4-1-4). (A.R. 4-1-4:I and II)
- PENALTY –
- [a-b] Dead-ball foul. Five yards from the succeeding spot [S7 and S19].
- The ball may not be snapped in a side zone (Rule 2-31-6). If the starting point for any scrimmage down is in a side zone, the ball shall be transferred to the hash mark.
ARTICLE 2. Shift and False Start
- Shift. After a huddle (Rule 2-14) or shift (Rule 2-22-1) and before the snap, all Team A players must come to an absolute stop and remain stationary in their positions without movement of the feet, body, head or arms for at least one full second before the ball is snapped. (A.R. 7-1-2:I)
- False Start. Each of the following is a false start by Team A if it occurs prior to the snap after the ball is ready for play and all players are in scrimmage formation:
- Any movement by one or more players that simulates the start of a play.
- The snapper moving to another position.
- A restricted lineman (Rule 2-27-4) moving his hand(s) or making any quick movement. Exceptions:
- An offensive player making any quick, jerky movement before the snap, including but not limited to:
- A lineman moving his foot, shoulder, arm, body or head in a quick, jerky motion in any direction.
- The snapper shifting or moving the ball, moving his thumb or fingers, flexing his elbows, jerking his head, or dipping his shoulders or buttocks.
- The quarterback making any quick, jerky movement that simulates the beginning of a play.
- A back simulating receiving the ball by making any quick, jerky movement that simulates the beginning of a play.
- The offensive team never coming to a one-second stop prior to the snap after the ball is ready for play. (A.R. 7-1-2:IV) This is an illegal shift that converts to a false start.
Approved ruling 7-1-2
- After a huddle or shift, all Team A players come to a stop and remain stationary for one second. Then, before the snap, two or more simultaneously change their positions. RULING: All 11 Team A players must again stop for one second before the snap, otherwise it is a live-ball foul at the snap for an illegal shift. Penalty — Five yards from previous spot (Rule 2-22-1). [Cited by 2-22-1-a, 7-1-2-a]
- Ten Team A players shift while A1 remains stationary. A1 then starts moving backward before one second elapses and the ball is snapped. RULING: If A1, who moved, did not halt with the other Team A players for one second before the snap, it is a dead-ball foul at the snap for a false start. Penalty — Five yards from the succeeding spot [Cited by 2-22-1-a]
- After the Team A players have stopped for one second, end A88 runs wide and stops, and before one second elapses, back A36 starts moving backward. RULING: Legal. But if back A36 starts before end A88 stops, the simultaneous movement of two players constitutes a shift, and all Team A players must be stationary for one second before the snap (Rule 2-22-1). [Cited by 2-22-1-a]
- Team A is in a no-huddle offense and is moving to the line when the ball is made ready for play. Although some players settle into their positions and stop, at least one player never stops and is still moving when the ball is snapped. RULING: Dead-ball foul — false start, since Team A never satisfied the one-second rule before the snap. Officials should shut the play down and penalise Team A five yards. [Cited by 2-22-1-a, 7-1-2-b-5]
ARTICLE 3. Offensive Team Requirements — Prior to the Snap
- Snapper. The snapper (Rule 2-27-8):
- Nine-Yard Marks.
- Each Team A substitute must have been between the nine-yard marks. Team A players who participated in the previous down must have been between the nine-yard marks after the previous down and before the next snap. (A.R. 3-3-4:I)
- All Team A players must have been between the nine-yard marks after a charged team timeout, an injury timeout, a media timeout or the end of a period.
- Encroachment. Once the snapper is established, no other Team A player may be in or beyond the neutral zone [Exceptions: (1) Substitutes and departing players; and (2) offensive players in a scrimmage kick formation who break the neutral zone with their hand(s) to point at opponents].
- False Start. No Team A player may commit a false start (Rule 7-1-2-b) or contact an opponent. (A.R. 7-1-3:III)
- PENALTY –
- [a-d] Dead-ball foul: Five yards from the succeeding spot. [S7 and S19 or S20].
Approved ruling 7-1-3
- A21 is legally on the end of the line of scrimmage next to A88, who is in a three-point stance. Team A stops for one second while A21 and A88 are in the above positions, and then A21 moves to a legal backfield position and stops. Then A88 shifts to a wider position on the line. RULING: Legal if both A21 and A88 are stationary at the snap (Rules 2-22-1 and 7-1-4). [Cited by 2-22-1-a, 7-1-4-c]
- A21 is legally on the end of the line of scrimmage next to A88, who is in the stance of a restricted lineman. Team A has stopped for one second when A21 leaves the line of scrimmage and goes in motion into the backfield. A88 shifts to a wider position on the line. RULING: A88 may break his three-point stance since he is now on the end of the line of scrimmage, but Team A must stop again for one second before the snap to make the play legal (Rule 7-1-4). [Cited by 2-22-1-a, 7-1-4-c]
- B71 crosses the neutral zone into the Team A backfield and does not threaten any Team A player. A23, legally in the backfield, intentionally reaches to contact B71. RULING: Team A foul, false start. Penalty — Five yards from the succeeding spot. [Cited by 7-1-3-d, 7-1-4-c]
- Snapper A1 lifts or moves the ball forward before backward motion of the snap. B2 bats the ball, causing it to roll loose with B3 recovering. RULING: Team A foul, illegal snap, ball remains dead. Penalty — five yards from succeeding spot (Rule 4-1-1). [Cited by 4-1-1]
- A66, a restricted lineman between the snapper and the player on the end of the line, or A72, a restricted player on the end of the line of scrimmage:
- Lifts a hand or hands from the ground immediately when threatened by B1, who is in the neutral zone. RULING: Blow the whistle immediately. Team B dead-ball foul, offside. Penalty — Five yards from the succeeding spot.
- Lifts a hand or hands from the ground upon initial charge by B1, who (a) does not enter the neutral zone or (b) enters the neutral zone but does not threaten the position of A66 or A72. RULING: In both (a) and (b), blow the whistle immediately. Team A dead-ball foul, false start. Penalty — Five yards from the succeeding spot. [Cited by 2-18-2-d, 7-1-2-b-3-a, 7-1-5-a-2]
NOTE: Before the snap, a team B player who enters the neutral zone may threaten a maximum of three Team A linemen. If the Team B player enters the neutral zone directly toward a Team A lineman, then that Team A player and the two adjacent linemen are considered to be threatened. If the Team B player enters the neutral zone directly toward a gap between two Team A lineman, then only those two Team A players are considered to be threatened.
- A80 on the end of the line, a non-restricted interior lineman or a back, misses the snap count and makes a casual movement that is not abrupt, misses the snap count and makes a casual movement that is not abrupt, quick or jerky and does not simulate the start of a play. RULING: No foul by Team A.
ARTICLE 4. Offensive Team Requirements — At the Snap
- Formation. At the snap, Team A must be in a formation that meets these requirements:
- All players must be inbounds
- All players must be either linemen or backs (Rule 2-27-4). (A.R. 7-1-4:VIII)
- At least five linemen must wear jerseys numbered 50 through 79 (Exception: When the snap is from a scrimmage kick formation, paragraph 5 below.)
- No more than four players may be backs.
- In a scrimmage kick formation at the snap (Rule 2-16-10) Team A may have fewer than five linemen numbered 50-79, subject to the following conditions:
- Any and all linemen not numbered 50-79 who are ineligible receiver(s) by position become exceptions to the numbering rule when the snapper is established.
- Any and all such numbering-exception players must be on the line and may not be on the end of the line. Otherwise, Team A commits a foul for an illegal formation.
- Any and all such players are exceptions to the numbering rule throughout the down and remain ineligible receivers unless they become eligible under Rule 7-3-5 (forward pass touched by an official or a Team B player).
The conditions in 5(a)-5(c) are no longer in effect if prior to the snap a period ends or there is a timeout charged to the referee or one of the teams.
- Man in motion.
- One back may be in motion, but he may not be moving toward his opponents’ goal line.
- The player who goes in motion may not start from the line of scrimmage unless he first becomes a back and comes to a complete stop.
- A player in motion at the snap must have satisfied the one-second rule — i.e. he may not start his motion before any shift has ended (Rule 2-22-1-c).
- Illegal shift. At the snap, Team A may not execute an illegal shift (Rule 7-1-2-a). (A.R. 7-1-3:I-II)
PENALTY – [a-c] Live-ball foul: Five yards from the previous spot [S19 or S20]. For live-ball fouls occurring when or after the snap starts during scrimmage kick plays other than field goal plays: Five yards from the previous spot or five yards from the spot where the subsequent dead ball belongs to Team B [S19 or S20].
Approved ruling 7-1-4
- A30, lined up legally as a back, starts in motion legally. He then turns so that he still is legally in motion but is facing his line of scrimmage using a “side-step” motion. At the snap, A30 is bent slightly forward at the waist and is either continuing his “side-step” motion or is “marking time” in place. RULING: Legal.
- A30, lined up legally as a back, starts in motion legally. He then turns so that he still is legally in motion but is facing his line of scrimmage using a “side-step” motion. At the snap, A30, still behind the neutral zone, is moving slightly forward from the waist up or his “side-step” motion has veered slightly toward the line of scrimmage. RULING: Live-ball foul at the snap for illegal motion. Penalty — Five yards from the previous spot.
- Team A’s formation at the snap includes only 10 players: five players on the line of scrimmage numbered 50-79, one player on the line wearing number 82, and four players in the backfield. RULING: The formation is legal because Team A has no more than four players in the backfield and the required number of players (five) on the line wearing 50-79.
- Team A, with fourth and eight, sends two substitutes numbered 21 and 33 into the game as exceptions to the mandatory numbering, and they are positioned legally on their line of scrimmage between the end players on the line of scrimmage. After the ball is snapped, a Team A player, 15 yards deep in a scrimmage kick formation, throws a legal forward pass to an eligible receiver for a 10-yard gain. RULING: Legal play (Note: The same play from a field goal formation is legal). [Cited by 1-1-1-b-2]
- A33, an exception to the mandatory numbering rule, assumes a position on the line of scrimmage next to end A88. Before the snap, A88 shifts to a backfield position with the flanker on the opposite side of the line shifting to an end position on the line. RULING: Illegal formation. Since A33 is now an end, he is thus in an illegal position at the snap (live-ball foul). Penalty — five yards from the previous spot. [Cited by 1-1-1-b-2]
- A33, an exception to the mandatory numbering rule, assumes a position on the line of scrimmage to the left of snapper A85, who is on the end of the line. All other Team A players on the line are to A33’s left. After a one-second stop, all players on the line except A85 legally shift to the other side of the ball, with A33 now positioned as an end. RULING: If the ball is snapped with A33 in this position, it is a foul for an illegal formation. Penalty — five yards from the previous spot. [Cited by 1-1-1-b-2]
- At the B-45, Team A is in a formation in which the snapper A88 is on the right end of the line. The linemen on his left are numbered 56, 63, 72, 22, 79, and 25. There are four players in the backfield. A44 is ten yards directly behind the snapper, and the other backs are to his left a few yards behind the line of scrimmage. No player is in position to hold for a place kick. After the snap, A44 completes a pass to snapper A88 for a touchdown. This happens on (a) first or second down; (b) third or fourth down. RULING: Because there are only four offensive linemen numbered in the 50-79 range, the legality of the play depends on whether Team A is in a scrimmage kick formation. One of the requirements for such a formation is that “it is obvious that a kick will be attempted.” (a) Illegal formation: on first or second down, a team is very unlikely to punt, so it is not obvious that a kick will be attempted. (b) Legal play: touchdown. On third or fourth down a team may be likely to kick. (Rule 2-16-10)
- Team A lines up with A11 ten yards directly behind the snapper. The other three backs are split wide, all outside the tackle box. Only four Team A linemen have uniform numbers between 50 and 79. A11 receives the backward pass from the snapper with Team A in this formation. RULING: Live-ball foul. Illegal formation, not enough players numbered 50-79 on the line of scrimmage. Team A is not in a scrimmage kick formation, because in this alignment it is not obvious that a kick will be attempted. (Rule 2-16-10) [Cited by 7-1-4-a-2]
- Team A lines up with six players on the line of scrimmage, five of whom are numbered in the range 50-79. A seventh player, A88, is in the normal location of an end, but he is positioned so that his feet and shoulders are clearly at a 45-degree angle with the line of scrimmage. The other four players are clearly in the backfield. The ball is snapped with Team A in this alignment. RULING: Live-ball foul, illegal formation. Every Team A player must be either a lineman or a back; A88 is neither.
ARTICLE 5. Defensive Team Requirements
- Each of the following (1-5) is a dead-ball foul. Officials should blow the whistle and not allow the play to continue. After the ball is ready for play and before the ball is snapped:
- No player may touch the ball except when moved illegally as in Rule 7-1-3-a-1, nor may any player contact an opponent or in any other way interfere with him. (A.R. 7-1-5:I-II)
- No player may enter the neutral zone threatening an offensive lineman and causing him to react immediately, or commit any other dead-ball offside foul (Rules 2-18-2 and 7-1-2-b-3 Exceptions). (A.R. 7-1-3:V) (A.R. 7-1-5:III)
- No player shall use words or signals that disconcert opponents when they are preparing to put the ball in play. No player may call defensive signals that simulate the sound or cadence of, or otherwise interfere with, offensive starting signals.
- Player(s) aligned in a stationary position within one yard of the line of scrimmage may not make quick, abrupt or exaggerated actions that are not part of normal defensive player movement. (A.R. 7-1-5:IV)
- No player may cross the neutral zone and without making contact continue his charge toward any back.
- PENALTY –
- [1-5] Dead ball foul. Five yards from the succeeding spot [S18 or S21].
- When the snap starts:
Approved ruling 7-1-5
- Snapper A1 lifts the ball before backward passing it, B2 bats the ball away and B3 recovers the ball. RULING: Team A dead-ball foul, illegal snap. The ball remains dead because it was not put in play by a legal snap. Penalty — Five yards from the succeeding spot. Team A retains possession. [Cited by 2-23-1-b, 2-23-1-f, 4-1-1, 7-1-5-a-1]
- Snapper A1 legally begins the snap, but B2 bats the ball before A1 completes the snap, and B3 recovers the ball. RULING: Team B foul and the ball remains dead. Penalty — Five yards from the succeeding spot. Team B may not touch the ball until it has been snapped. Team A retains possession. [Cited by 2-23-1-b, 2-23-1-f, 4-1-1, 7-1-5-a-1]
- Before the snap, a Team B player crosses the neutral zone and, without making contact, continues his charge behind a Team A lineman and directly toward the quarterback or kicker. RULING: A Team B player who is on team A’s side of the neutral zone and is moving in a direct path toward the quarterback or kicker while he is behind an offensive lineman is considered to be interfering with Team A’s formation. Penalty — Team B dead-ball foul, offside. Five yards from the succeeding spot. [Cited by 2-18-2-e, 7-1-5-a-2]
- Linebacker B56 is stationary within one yard beyond the neutral zone. As the offense is calling its snap signals, B56 feints toward the line in an obvious attempt to induce a false start by the offense. RULING: Dead-ball foul, delay of game. Five-yard penalty at the succeeding spot. [Cited by 7-1-5-a-4]
ARTICLE 6. Handing the Ball Forward
No player may hand the ball forward except during a scrimmage down as follows:
- A Team A back may hand the ball forward to another back only if both are behind their scrimmage line.
- A Team A back behind his scrimmage line may hand the ball forward to a teammate who is on his scrimmage line at the snap, provided that teammate leaves his line position by a movement of both feet that faces him toward his own end line and is at least two yards behind his scrimmage line when he receives the ball. (A.R. 7-1-6:I)
Approved ruling 7-1-6
- Eligible receiver A83 is on the end of his scrimmage line and adjacent to the snapper in an unbalanced “T” formation. Quarterback A10 receives a handed snap and immediately conveys the ball to A83. RULING: If the movement of the ball is forward and it left A10’s hand before having been touched by A83, it is a legal forward pass. A83 may have turned sufficiently to receive a backward pass or handoff (legal); but if the action immediately followed the snap, it is not likely that a handoff would have had time to comply with the “turn” and “two yards behind the line” requirement. [Cited by 7-1-6-b]
ARTICLE 7. Planned Loose Ball
- PENALTY –
- Five yards from the previous spot and loss of down [S19 and S9].