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Houston Texans

Football Basics: The Officials

The many rules of the game of football are enforced by a group of seven officials positioned throughout the field of play. Each infraction is responsible for rule infractions that take place within their designated area of the field. An official will throw a yellow flag to signify that an infraction has taken place. Here is a list of the officials and where they are located on the field:

· The referee wears a white hat and is in charge of all the other officials. They can be found behind the offense.

· The umpire is located behind the defensive line.

· The head linesman and side judge are located on one sideline.

· The line judge and back judge are located on the other sideline.

· The field judge is located behind the defense in the center of the field.

5 Yard Penalty

Delay of Game

Offence does not star the next play before the play clocks time expires.


A player crosses the line of scrimmage prior to the play.

False Start

Offensive player who is on the line of scrimmage moves after being set.

Illegal Shift

Two or more offensive players do not come to a complete stop before the ball is snapped.

Illegal Contact

Defender strikes an eligible receiver during a drop back pass more than 5 yards downfield.

Illegal Motion

An offensive player in motion is moving toward the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped.

Illegal Forward Pass

Quarterback crosses the line of scrimmage before throwing a pass downfield.

Ineligible Receiver

An offensive lineman crosses the line of scrimmage before the quarterback throws a pass downfield.

Invalid Fair Catch

Kick returner did not accurately signal for a fair catch.


A player unintentionally grasps an opponent's face mask.

Ball illegally touched, kicked or batted

10 Yard Penalty…


An offensive player's illegal use of the hands, body or arms. Defensive holding is penalized five yards and an automatic first down.

Intentional Grounding

The quarterback throws an incomplete pass in order to avoid being sacked. Commonly determined when there are no receivers in the area of the pass.

Illegal Use of Hands

A player uses their hands to hit an opponent in the head or in the back.

Pass Interference

An offensive player stopping a defensive player from having a chance to catch a pass. Defensive pass interference is penalized more severely; the offense is awarded a first down at the spot of the foul

Penalty Refused

A penalty declined for strategic reasons. This is also the signal for a failed field goal attempt or PAT.


When a player uses his legs or feet to trip an opposing player.

15 Yard Penalty…

Personal Foul

A dangerous play that has the potential to result in a serious injury. There are many personal fouls including: roughing the passer, intentional facemask, roughing the kicker, etc.

Cut Block

A defensive player is illegally blocked (below the waist) by an offensive player.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

A player intentionally and flagrantly breaks the rules, often with the intent of causing serious injury.

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