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California Scientific
4011 Seaport Blvd
West Sacramento, CA 95691

Football 101: The Rules of NFL Football

The Field

By Mark Lawrence

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The Field

1. Sidelines and end lines are out of bounds. The goal line is actually in the end zone. A player with the ball in his possession scores a touchdown when the ball is on, above, or over the goal line.

2. The field is rimmed by a white border, six feet wide, along the sidelines. All of this is out of bounds.

3. The hashmarks (inbound lines) are 70 feet, 9 inches from each sideline.

4. Goal posts must be single-standard type, offset from the end line and painted bright gold. The goal posts must be 18 feet, 6 inches wide and the top face of the crossbar must be 10 feet above the ground. Vertical posts extend at least 30 feet above the crossbar. A ribbon 4 inches by 42 inches long is to be attached to the top of each post. The actual goal is the plane extending indefinitely above the crossbar and between the outer edges of the posts.

5. The field is 360 feet long and 160 feet wide. The end zones are 30 feet deep. The line used in try-for- point plays is two yards out from the goal line.

6. Chain crew members and ball boys must be uniformly identifiable.

7. All clubs must use standardized sideline markers. Pylons must be used for goal line and end line markings.

8. End zone markings and club identification at 50 yard line must be approved by the Commissioner to avoid any confusion as to delineation of goal lines, sidelines, and end lines.


1. The home club shall have 36 balls for outdoor games and 24 for indoor games available for testing with a pressure gauge by the referee two hours prior to the starting time of the game to meet with League requirements. Twelve (12) new footballs, sealed in a special box and shipped by the manufacturer, will be opened in the officials’ locker room two hours prior to the starting time of the game. These balls are to be specially marked with the letter "k" and used exclusively for the kicking game.

Coin Toss

1. The toss of coin will take place within three minutes of kickoff in center of field. The toss will be called by the visiting captain before the coin is flipped. The winner may choose one of two privileges and the loser gets the other:

(a) Receive or kick

(b) Goal his team will defend

2. Immediately prior to the start of the second half, the captains of both teams must inform the officials of their respective choices. The loser of the original coin toss gets first choice.


1. The stadium game clock is official. In case it stops or is operating incorrectly, the Line Judge takes over the official timing on the field.

2. Each period is 15 minutes. The intermission between the periods is two minutes. Halftime is 12 minutes, unless otherwise specified.

3. On charged team time outs, the Field Judge starts watch and blows whistle after 1 minute 50 seconds, unless television does not utilize the time for commercial. In this case the length of the time out is reduced to 40 seconds.

4. The Referee will allow necessary time to attend to an injured player, or repair a legal player’s equipment.

5. Each team is allowed three time outs each half.

6. Time between plays will be 40 seconds from the end of a given play until the snap of the ball for the next play, or a 25-second interval after certain administrative stoppages and game delays.

7. Clock will start running when ball is snapped following all changes of team possession.

8. With the exception of the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half, the game clock will be restarted following a kickoff return, a player going out of bounds on a play from scrimmage, or after declined penalties when appropriate on the referee’s signal.

9. Consecutive team time outs can be taken by opposing teams but the length of the second time out will be reduced to 40 seconds.

10. When, in the judgment of the Referee, the level of crowd noise prevents the offense from hearing its signals, he can institute a series of procedures which can result in a loss of team time outs or a five-yard penalty against the defensive team.

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