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Most Common Penalties in (American) Football
For all football “newbies”, when you watch a game you might think that just about anything goes. It is football, after all. However true, there are rules that must be followed and when an offending player commits an infraction, his team must be penalised.
In the NFL, when a player commits a penalty, the referee announces the penalty to the world. He will announce what the penalty is and to whom it applies. For example, it will say something like “Holding, number 74, Offense”. This tells everyone that number 74 at the offense has committed a waiting penalty. In the NFL, you can run, but you can’t hide. When a player commits a penalty, the referee (or one of the other officials who spotted the infraction) throws a yellow “FLAG” (which is actually a weighted handkerchief) in the air. So every time you watch a game on TV and see or hear the word “FLAG”, you will know that a player has committed a penalty. Although there are a number of different penalties players can commit, I will only mention the most common ones. Here they are:
– False start – this occurs when an offensive player (usually an offensive lineman) moves or flinches before the ball is broken. This is usually a fairly easy penalty to spot. This usually happens because a player tries to jump on their opponent before the start of play and inadvertently moves before the snap. A false start costs five meters on the attack.
– Hold – this occurs when a player catches their opponent illegally. While it may seem like the outfit happens pretty much every game, officials have to pick and choose their battles. Usually, unless it’s pretty obvious, the officials will pass this up. Holding costs a team ten yards if attacking, and five yards and an automatic first down if defending.
– Offside – usually occurs in defense, but an attacking player can also be offside. Offsides occur when a player (other than the centre) has part of his body in or beyond the neutral zone when the ball is snapped. The neutral zone is the area between the lines of scrimmage (or the length of the ball when it is on the ground at the start of a game). Offsides cost a team five yards.
– Encroachment – this penalty is similar to offsides in that a player enters the neutral zone before the snap, but on this penalty they come into contact with an opposing player. The penalty for this is five meters.
So, when watching the game, look for these common penalties. Soon you will call them before the Officials.
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