Football: Pre-Snap Violations and Rules
Encroachment, Offside, and Neutral Zone Defensive Infractions
Are these the same thing? To the casual observer these three penalties look very much alike, but they are slightly different. They all have to do with the defensive player crossing the line of scrimmage. See below for details.
Encroachment (5 yards)
- Encroachment is when a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage before the snap and makes contact with an offensive player.
Offside (5 yards)
- Offside is when part of the defensive player's body is over the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped.
Neutral zone infraction (5 yards)
- A neutral zone infraction is when a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage prior to the snap and then causes an offensive player to move. Rather than call a false start on the offense, the penalty is called on the defensive player.
False start (5 yards)
- Offensive players must remain set prior to the snap. Any movement, other than the player in motion, will result in a false start.
Illegal formation (5 yards)
- The offense must have 7 players lined up on the line of scrimmage. Players not on the line of scrimmage must be at least 1 yard back.
Illegal motion (5 yards)
- Only players in the backfield can go into motion. Once in motion they must either only move parallel to the line of scrimmage or be set prior to the snap. They cannot be moving toward the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped.
Too many men in motion (5 yards)
- Two players cannot be in motion at the same time.
Delay of game (5 yards)
- When the offensive team does not snap the ball before the play clock has expired, they will be given a delay of game penalty. This is a five yards. The play clock is either 40 seconds or 25 seconds long. In the case where play is continuing from a previous play, they have 40 seconds from the end of the previous play. In the case where play has stopped, like with a time out, then they have 25 seconds from when the referee says the ball is ready.
Offense or Defense
Illegal substitution (5 yards)
- This is typically called when the offensive team breaks the huddle with 12 players. Even if one of them is running off the field, you cannot break the huddle with 12 players.
Too many players on the field (5 yards)
- Each team may only have 11 players on the field when the ball is snapped. This play results in an automatic first down for the offense when the defense has too many players.
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