NFL Football

Here Is The Complete List of NFL Football Penalties

Author: Yash

The yellow flag is always present when it hits the turf in an NFL football game, and you know there has been a violation. However, it can be somewhat bewildering to figure out what went wrong exactly. When it comes to football, it is sometimes frustrating to find contradictions and terminology that is confusing.

1. Special Circumstances and Penalties

When a player receives a penalty in football, it typically results in the gain or loss of yardage in one direction or another. There are three levels of penalty in the NFL: five, ten, and fifteen yards. If the offensive team commits the penalty, it may result in a down loss. It is also possible that odd yardage amounts may be awarded for infractions that are near either goal line, far from either goal line, or in other areas where the full yardage cannot be applied.

2. Here is a list of NFL football penalties

The following is a brief overview of the most common NFL football penalties. Having an understanding of these infractions will make it easier for you to follow along when a yellow flag appears. These penalties are enforced from where the ball was placed previously unless otherwise noted.

3. Clipping

The defense is responsible for 15 yards plus an automatic first down if it commits the penalty. An action known as clipping involves contacting a non-runner from behind and below the waist. When a defensive player attacks an offensive player from behind, it is most commonly called a "backside block."

4. Chop Block

It is not permitted for a second offensive player to contact a defender below the waist when an offensive player is engaged with a defender. There are many players that find this illegal and also consider it to be a cheap shot.

5. Delay of Game

There is also a 40-second play clock in the game that counts down the amount of time the offense has before they may run the next play before the game ends. During a play clock that strikes zero, if the play has not begun, the quarterback is penalized for a delay of game.

6. Encroachment

Offside by a defensive player occurs when he or she violates the neutral zone at the snap. Defensive players usually make contact with offensive players when using this term.

7. Facemask

The face mask of an opponent or any area of his helmet should not be grabbed by the player.

8. Failure to Report

Officials are made aware through the number on their jerseys that offensive linemen cannot run downfield and receive passes. When lining up in an eligible position, a lineman or the coach must inform the officials of this intention. A penalty is imposed if it is not done.

9. False Start

It occurs when an offensive player moves forward before the snap on the line or in the backfield.

10. Holding

As long as the offensive player is blocking the defensive player, he cannot grab that player. Other than the ball carrier, defensive players are prohibited from grabbing or tampering with offensive players.

11. Horse-collar Tackle

Grabbing the back of a ball carrier's collar or pulling them from his shoulder pads from behind is not permitted.

12. Illegal Block in the Back

Defensive players cannot be blocked from behind by offensive players. A defensive player who turns around cannot be stopped if they maintain continuous legal contact.

13. Illegal Formation

There must be 7 men on the line of scrimmage for the offense to be successful. An illegal formation is one that does not comply with these rules.

14. Illegal Forward Pass

If the quarterback runs past the line of scrimmage or throws more than one forward pass at the same time, this is called a forward pass.

15. Illegal Shift / Illegal Motion / Illegal Procedure

Players who move improperly are subject to similar penalties. A very specific set of rules govern how offensive players can move before the snap, and only one player can move laterally to the line of scrimmage before the snap.

16. Illegal Substitution / Too Many Men on the Field

As a rule, football is played with eleven men per team, and if there are more players, there will be a penalty. The substitution process in football causes players to run on and off the field every single time between plays.

On offense, however, more than 11 players do not have the right to break the huddle, nor do they have the right to be in a huddle with more than 11 men. Substitutions like this are illegal. There is a penalty called Illegal Participation if either team has 12 or more men on the field.

17. Illegal Touching

Any ineligible player who touches the ball is subject to this penalty. In addition to interior linemen touching forward passes or kicking teams touching the ball before the ball reaches ten yards after kicking off, such players must touch the ball before it leaves bounds.


Even though penalties can significantly impact the outcome of a football game, the best officials know how to balance calling tight games with letting the players deal with issues on the field. Particularly in the NFL, where players execute at such a high level, no one wants penalties to dictate the game, including the league, the officials, and fans. The officials should blend into the background in the best of circumstances.

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