Football: Violations and Rules During a Play
Ineligible player downfield during a pass (5 yards)
- Only certain players are eligible for a pass during a play, such as the running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. If a non-eligible player, typically an offensive lineman, is more than two yards downfield during a pass play, it will result in a penalty.
Helping the runner (10 yards)
- Anytime an offensive player tries to help push or move the ball carrier once he is being held by the defense.
Holding or illegal use of the hands by the offense (10 yards)
- One of the key rules to football is that blockers can't hold on or use their hands to grab defensive players. This is what makes blocking difficult and gives the defense a chance to get to the ball carrier. If an offensive lineman or blocker grabs, pulls, or tackles a defender, they will get called for holding.
Offensive pass interference (10 yards)
- Pass interference can be called on both the offense and the defense. Each player has the right to go after the ball and he cannot make contact, like pushing, before the ball arrives. This is a 10 yard penalty when the offensive player does it.
Intentional grounding (10 yards, loss of down)
- This is called when the quarterback throws a pass to an area without a receiver in order to avoid being sacked. In the case where the quarterback is outside of the tackle box (the area between the two tackles) he can purposely throw the ball out of bounds as long as it goes beyond the line of scrimmage. In this case he will not be called for grounding.
Illegal contact (5 yards)
- Once a receiver is 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, the defensive player may not block or "chuck" him to disrupt his route. Inside the 5 yards the defender may block the receiver, but not hold him.
Defensive holding (5 yards, automatic first down)
- A defensive player may not tackle, hold, or throw down an offensive player other than the ball carrier. This penalty is often called on defensive backs who impede the progress of a receiver. If they do this before the ball is thrown, a holding penalty is called. If the ball is in the air, then pass interference is called.
Pass interference by the defense (at the spot of the penalty)
- When the ball is in the air, each player has an equal right to go after the ball. They cannot impede their opponent from getting to the ball. Pass interference is often called on a safety or cornerback for grabbing a receiver or hitting a receiver just before the ball arrives. The result is an automatic first down and the team gets the ball at the point of the penalty (note: in college and high school it is a 15 yard penalty).
Special Teams Violations
Kickoff out of bounds (5 yards)
- If the kickoff goes out of bounds (not in the end zone) and no one touches it, they get a 5 yard penalty and have to re-kick. If this happens a second time, the receiving team may accept the ball 30 yards from where the ball was kicked or at the point where the ball went out of bounds.
Ineligible player downfield during a punt (5 yards)
- With the exception of the two players on the end, the rest of the offensive players must stay on the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked. If they move downfield before the ball is kicked, it will be a 5 yard penalty.
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