List of Different Types of Football Penalties


The world’s most popular sport, football is a team sport and a timed sport. How many of you know that there are 19 rules, 116 sections and 343 articles in NFL rule books? 

There are many rules and penalties that are enforced during a football game. Most football penalties result in a loss or gain of yardage, automatic first down or even ejection. The severity of the penalty determines the number of yards. Most of the penalties are 5 or 10 yards but some dangerous or unsporting act can result in a 15-yard penalty. Referees will usually signal penalties by throwing a yellow flag and using corresponding hand motions.

The rules of the football game are complicated and different, depending on the level of play. A penalty kick is awarded if a player commits a direct free kick offence inside their penalty area. A goal may be scored directly from a penalty kick.

Passing the penalty kick is totally within the laws. The player taking the penalty kick must kick it forward and cannot touch it for a second time.

Penalty shoot-out;

A penalty shoot-out is a method of determining which team is awarded victory in a football match that cannot end in a draw.

Some of the common penalties are

Defensive Penalties;

These penalties can only be committed by defence team. Defensive penalties usually result in the offensive gaining yards or an automatic first down.

  • Defensive holding
  • Defensive offside
  • Defensive pass interference
  • Defensive too many men on field
  • Encroachment
  • Fair catch interference
  • Leaping
  • Leaverage
  • Illegal contact
  • Neutral zone infraction
  • Roughing the kicker
  • Roughing the passer
  • Running into the kicker
  • Kickoff out of bounds

Offensive penalties

These penalties can be committed by the offensive team. Offensive penalties usually result in a loss of yardage.

  • Delay of game
  • Delay of kickoff
  • Chop block
  • Clipping
  • Facemask
  • Illegal blindside block
  • Illegal block above the waste
  • Horse collar
  • Use of helmet
  • Illegal batting
  • Illegal use of hands
  • Illegal crack back
  • Illegal cut
  • Illegal substitution
  • Player out of bounds on kick
  • Taunting
  • Tripping
  • Low block
  • Illegal wedge

False start–  5 yards

When an offensive player on the line moves before the snap or set position or when an offensive player in the backfield moves forward before the snap. Note that one back on the offense can legally be in motion at the time of the snap.

Offside– 5 yards

If a player from the offense or defense is on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap. A defensive player can cross the line of scrimmage as they get back before the snap, but if they touch an offensive player they can be called for encroachment

Holding –5 yards and automatic first down

When a player grabs a football player without the ball, with the hands or hooks him or tackles him.

Pass interference– 10 yards

When a defender contacts a pass receiver after the ball is in the air to prevent him from catching the ball. If the contact is before the ball is in the air, it will be called defensive holding. Note that pass interference can also be called on the offense if the defender has position and is trying to catch the ball.

Facemask – 5 yards

It is illegal to grab another player’s facemask

Intentional grounding– 10 yards

When the passer throws a pass nowhere near an eligible receiver strictly to avoid being sacked.

Ineligible receiver downfield: 5 yard penalty

When one of the offensive player that is not an eligible receiver, is more than 5 yards downfield from the line of scrimmage during a forward pass.

Delay of Game: 5 yards

An action that delays the game. For example, if the offence allows the play clock to run out.

Encroachment: the offense gains 5 yards

When a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage and makes contact with an opponent before the ball is snapped.

Helmet to helmet collision; 15 yards, Automatic first down

When a player uses his helmet to hit another player’s helmet

Horse collar tackle: 15 yards, Automatic First Down

When a player tackles another player by holding on to his collar/shoulder of jersey from behind.

Roughing the kicker; 15 yards, Automatic First down

When a defensive player makes any contact with the punter, provided the defensive hasn’t touched the kicked ball before contact.

Roughing the passer; 15 yards

When a defensive player makes direct contact with the quarterback after the quarterback has released the ball.

Personal foul; 15 yards

An illegal flagrant foul is considered risky to the health of another player

Clipping; 15 yards

Clipping is blocking an opponent from behind below the waste, provided the opponent is not a runner.


When a player deliberately trips a player on the opposing team.

A foul is any infraction of a playing rule for which a penalty is prescribed.

Types of foul;

  • A Live Ball Foul
  • A Dead Ball Foul
  • A Foul between Downs
  • Multiple Foul
  • Double Foul

Penalty was created as a way to promote player safety and prevent unnecessary injuries. But you can always reward yourself with the best sporting goods.

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