Summary of Football Penalties

Football penalties are fouls committed by players. A penalty under NFL rules will consist of a team losing 5 to 15 yards but can consist of the team losing a down or even the procession of the football.

Most penalties are holding, off sides and false starts. Here's a list of football penalties.

Automatic First Down
Awarded to offensive team on all defensive fouls with these exceptions:

  • Offside.
  • Encroachment.
  • Delay of game.
  • Illegal substitution.
  • Excessive time out(s).
  • Incidental grasp of face mask.
  • Neutral zone infraction.
  • Running into the kicker.
  • More than 11 players on the field at the snap.

Five Yards Football Penalties
  • Offside.
  • Defensive holding or illegal use of hands (automatic first down).
  • Delay of game on offense or defense.
  • Delay of kickoff.
  • Encroachment.
  • Excessive time out(s).
  • False start.
  • Illegal formation.
  • Illegal shift.
  • Illegal motion.
  • Illegal substitution.
  • First onside kickoff out of bounds between goal lines and untouched or last touched by kicker.
  • Invalid fair catch signal.
  • More than 11 players on the field at snap for either team.
  • Less than seven men on offensive line at snap.
  • Failure to pause one second after shift or huddle.
  • Running into kicker.
  • More than one man in motion at snap.
  • Grasping face mask of the ball carrier or quarterback.
  • Player out of bounds at snap.
  • Ineligible member(s) of kicking team going beyond line of scrimmage before ball is kicked.
  • Illegal return.
  • Failure to report change of eligibility.
  • Neutral zone infraction.
  • Loss of team time out(s) or five-yard penalty on the defense for excessive crowd noise.
  • Ineligible player down-field during passing down.
  • Second forward pass behind the line.
  • Forward pass is first touched by eligible receiver who has gone out of bounds and returned.
  • Forward pass touches or is caught by an ineligible receiver on or behind line.
  • Forward pass thrown from behind line of scrimmage after ball once crossed the line.
  • Kicking team player voluntarily out of bounds during a punt.
  • Twelve (12) men in the huddle.

10 Yards Football Penalties

  • Offensive pass interference.
  • Holding, illegal use of hands, arms, or body by offense.
  • Tripping by a member of either team.
  • Helping the runner.
  • Deliberately batting or punching a loose ball.
  • Deliberately kicking a loose ball.
  • Illegal block above the waist.

15 Yards Football Penalties

  • Chop block.
  • Clipping below the waist.
  • Fair catch interference.
  • Illegal crack-back block by offense.
  • Piling on.
  • Roughing the kicker.
  • Roughing the passer.
  • Twisting, turning, or pulling an opponent by the face mask.
  • Unnecessary roughness.
  • Unsportsmanlike conduct.
  • Delay of game at start of either half.
  • Illegal low block.
  • A tackler using his helmet to butt, spear, or ram an opponent.
  • Any player who uses the top of his helmet unnecessarily.
  • A punter, placekicker, or holder who simulates being roughed by a defensive player.
  • Leaping.
  • Leverage.
  • Any player who removes his helmet after a play while on the field.
  • Taunting.

Five Yards and Loss of Down (Combination Penalty)
  • Forward pass thrown from beyond line of scrimmage.

10 Yards and Loss of Down (Combination Penalty)

  • Intentional grounding of forward pass (safety if passer is in own end zone). If foul occurs more than 10 yards behind line, play results in loss of down at spot of foul.

15 Yards and Loss of Coin Toss Option

  • Team’s late arrival on the field prior to scheduled kickoff.
  • Captains not appearing for coin toss.

15 Yards (and disqualification if flagrant)

  • Striking opponent with fist.
  • Kicking or kneeing opponent.
  • Striking opponent on head or neck with forearm, elbow, or hands whether or not the initial contact is made below the neck area.
  • Roughing kicker.
  • Roughing passer.
  • Malicious unnecessary roughness.
  • Unsportsmanlike conduct.
  • Palpably unfair act. (Distance penalty determined by the Referee after consultation with other officials.)

15 Yards and Automatic Disqualification

  • Using a helmet (not worn) as a weapon.
  • Striking or purposely shoving a game official.

Suspension From Game For One Down
Illegal equipment. (Player may return after one down when legally equipped.)

Touchdown Awarded (Palpably Unfair Act)
When Referee determines a palpably unfair act deprived a team of a touchdown. (Example: Player comes off bench and tackles runner apparently en route to touchdown.)