Football Ops

Football Ops

Protecting the integrity of the greatest game.

NFL Ops: Honoring the Game

It's our responsibility to strengthen the sport.

League Governance

Ensuring a consistent and fair game that is decided on the field, by the players.

NFL Rules Enforcement

Ensuring that players conduct themselves in a way that honors the sport and respects the game.

Fines & Appeals

The NFL's schedule of infractions and fines, and a process for appeal.

Economic & Social Impact

Honoring the league’s commitment to serve the communities where the game is played.

The NFL Ops Team

Meet the people behind NFL Operations.

The Game

The Game

Learn about the people, the jobs and the technology that deliver the best game possible to NFL fans across the U.S. and around the world. 

Gameday: Behind the Scenes

Countdown to kickoff: how NFL games happen.

Technology

In the NFL, balancing technology with tradition.

Impact of Television

How television has changed the game.

History of Instant Replay

Upon further review…

Creating the NFL Schedule

It takes hundreds of computers and four NFL executives to create the NFL's 256-game masterpiece.

The Players

The Players

Learn how NFL players have changed over time, how they’re developed and drafted and how the league works with them after their playing days are over.  

Evolution of the NFL Player

Creating an NFL player: from “everyman” to “superman.”

Development Pipeline

Supporting the next generation of players and fans.

Getting Into the Game

Preparing players of all ages for success at football’s highest level.

The NFL Draft

Introducing the next wave of NFL superstars. 

NFL Player Engagement

A look at the programs the NFL and its partners provide to help every player before, during and after his football career.

NFL Legends Community

Celebrating, educating, embracing and connecting all former NFL players with each other, their former teams and the league.

The Officials

The Officials

Discover the evolution of professional officiating, the weekly evaluation process and how the NFL identifies and develops the next generation of officials.

In Focus: History of the Official

“One thing hasn’t changed: the pressure. It will always be there.”

Inside NFL GameDay Central

The latest information from the NFL's officiating command center.

These Officials Are Really Good

Every week, officials take the field ready to put months of preparation, training and hard work on display, knowing that the whole world — and the Officiating Department — is watching.

Officiating Development

Officiating an NFL game takes years of training and experience. 

The Rules

The Rules

NFL Football Operations protects the integrity of the game by ensuring that the rules and the officiating are consistent and fair to all competitors.

In Focus: Evolution of the NFL Rules

The custodians of football not only have protected its integrity, but have also revised its playing rules to protect the players, and to make the games fairer and more entertaining.

2017 NFL Rulebook

Explore the official rules of the game.

NFL Video Rulebook

The NFL Video Rulebook explains NFL rules with video examples.

2017 Rules Changes and Points of Emphasis

NFL Overtime Rules

NFL Tiebreaking Procedures

The NFL's procedures for breaking ties for postseason playoffs.

Signals Intelligence

The NFL's familiar hand signals help fans better understand the game.   

Stats Central

Stats Central

Go inside the game with the NFL's official game stats.  Sort the stats by season or by week.

Chart The Data

Chart and compare the NFL Football Operations stats you're looking for with the NFL's data tool. 

Weekly Dashboard

Get a snapshot of the current NFL game stats, updated weekly during the regular season.

Health & Safety Rules Changes

An overview of NFL rule changes focused on protecting players over the past 30 years:

2016

  • Rules prohibiting chop blocks are extended to include running plays, making all instances of chop blocks illegal.
  • Rules prohibiting horse collar tackles are extended to include when a defender grabs the jersey at the nameplate or above and pulls a runner toward the ground.

2015

  • Rules prohibiting illegal “peel back” blocks are extended to cover all offensive players.
  • Offensive backs are prohibited from chopping a defensive player engaged above the waist by another offensive player outside the tackle box.
  • Defenseless player protections are expanded to cover the intended receiver of a pass in the immediate continuing action following an interception.
  • When a team presents a punt, field-goal or try kick formation, defenders are prohibited from pushing teammates on the line of scrimmage.

2014

  • Clipping and unnecessary roughness penalties are expanded to prohibit blockers from rolling up on the side of a defender’s leg.

2013

  • Players are required to wear protective knee and thigh pads.
  • It is illegal for a runner or tackler to initiate forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top or crown of his helmet against an opponent when both players are clearly outside the tackle box.
  • “Peel back” blocks below the waist are illegal inside the tackle box.
  • The list of “defenseless players” is expanded to include long snappers on field goals and PATs.
  • The “bunch” formation is eliminated on field goals and PATs. No more than six defenders may be on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper at the snap for these plays.

2012

  • The list of “defenseless players” is expanded to include defensive players on crackback blocks, making it illegal to hit them in the head or neck area.

2011

  • The restraining line for the kicking team is moved from the 30- to the 35-yard line in an effort to increase touchbacks.
  • All kicking team players other than the kicker must be lined up no more than five yards behind their restraining line, eliminating the 15-20 yard running “head start” that had become customary for many players.
  • The list of “defenseless players” is expanded to include a kicker/punter during the kick or during the return, a quarterback at any time after a change of possession, and a player who receives a “blindside” block when the blocker is moving toward his own endline and approaches the opponent from behind or from the side. Previously, these players were protected against blows to the head, but not against blows delivered by an opponent with the top/crown or forehead/”hairline” parts of the helmet against other parts of the body.
  • A receiver who has completed a catch is a “defenseless player” until he has had time to protect himself or has clearly become a runner. A receiver/runner is no longer defenseless if he is able to avoid or ward off the impending contact of an opponent.
  • Previously, the receiver who had completed a catch was protected against an opponent who launched and delivered a blow to the receiver’s head.

2010

  • During a field-goal attempt, punt, or try-kick, a defensive team player, who is within one yard of the line of scrimmage at the snap, must have his entire body outside the snapper’s shoulder pads.
  • After a half has expired, dead ball personal fouls by either team will be enforced on the succeeding kickoff.
  • A player who has just completed a catch is protected from blows to the head or neck by an opponent who launches.
  • All “defenseless players” are protected from blows to the head delivered by an opponent’s helmet, forearm, or shoulder.
  • Kickers and punters during the kick and return, and quarterbacks after a change of possession, are protected from blows to the head delivered by an opponent’s helmet, forearm, or shoulder, instead of just helmet-to-helmet contact.
  • The ball is declared dead at the spot if a runner’s helmet comes completely off.

2009

  • Teams are not permitted to intentionally form a wedge of more than two players on a kickoff return in an attempt to block for the runner.
  • The “bunch” formation on kickoffs is eliminated. The kickoff team must have at least three players outside each hash mark, one of whom must be outside the yard-line number.
  • It is an illegal “blindside” block if the blocker is moving toward his own endline and approaches the opponent from behind or from the side, and the initial force of the contact by the blocker’s helmet, forearm, or shoulder is to the head or neck area of an opponent.
  • It is an illegal hit on a defenseless receiver if the initial force of the contact by the defender’s helmet, forearm, or shoulder is to the head or neck area of the receiver.
  • The rule regarding low hits on passers is clarified:
    • A defender cannot initiate a roll or lunge and forcibly hit the passer in the knee area or below, even if he is being contacted by another player.
    • It is not a foul if the defender swipes, wraps, or grabs a passer in the knee area or below in an attempt to tackle him.

2007

  • A block below the waist against an eligible receiver while the quarterback is in the pocket is a 15-yard penalty instead of a 5-yard penalty (an illegal cut block).

2006

  • Low hits on the quarterback are prohibited when a rushing defender has an opportunity to avoid such contact.
  • Blocks in the back above the waist by the kicking team while the ball is in flight during a scrimmage kick are illegal.
  • The definition of a “horse collar tackle” is expanded to include grabbing the inside collar of the jersey.
  • During a field-goal attempt or a try, a defensive player who is within one yard of the line of scrimmage at the snap must have his helmet outside the snapper’s shoulder pad.
  • Personal or unsportsmanlike conduct fouls that occur during halftime or during intermission between the fourth period and an overtime period will be penalized on the ensuing kickoff.
  • During a free kick, at least four kicking team players must be on each side of the kicker when the ball is kicked.

2005

  • It is illegal to grab the inside collar of the shoulder pads to tackle a runner (“horse-collar tackle”).
  • Unnecessarily running, diving into, or throwing the body against a player who should not have reasonably anticipated such contact by an opponent is unnecessary roughness. Previously, the rule only protected a player who is out of the play.
  • A kicker/punter must not be unnecessarily contacted by the receiving team through the end of the play or until he assumes a distinctly defensive position. An opponent may not unnecessarily initiate helmet-to-helmet contact to the kicker/punter during the kick or during the return.
  • An offensive player who is aligned in the tackle box at the snap and moves to a position outside the box is prohibited from initiating contact on the side or below the waist of an opponent if the blocker is moving toward his own end line and approaches the opponent from behind or from the side (“peel back block”). The near shoulder of the blocker must be in front of his opponent’s body.

2002

  • The chop block technique is illegal on all kicking plays.
  • It is illegal to hit a quarterback helmet-to-helmet any time after a change of possession.

1999

  • Blocking from behind, at, or below the knees in the clipping zone is prohibited.
  • After a blocking attempt in close line play, a blocker is prohibited from rolling up on the back of a defender’s legs (Unnecessary Roughness).

1998

  • All face shields must be transparent.

1996

  • On running plays, a chop block is prohibited by an offensive player who is aligned more than one position away from the engaged defender when the block occurs away from the flow of the play.
  • A defender cannot be chopped even after he has disengaged from an offensive opponent, if he is still confronting the offensive player.
  • Prohibition of the “lure” technique is applicable all along the offensive line, instead of only to a player outside a tackle.

1995

  • Protection for defenseless players is clarified and expanded. Since 1982, a defensive player was prohibited from using the crown or top of his helmet against a passer, a receiver in the act of catching a pass, or a runner who is in the grasp of a tackler. The clarification provided that:
    • Defenseless players included a kickoff or punt returner attempting to field a kick in the air, and a player on the ground at the end of a play.
    • Defensive players are prohibited from lowering their heads to make forcible contact with the facemask, or with the “hairline” or forehead part of the helmet, against an opponent, instead of only with the top/crown.
    • Defensive players are prohibited from forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head, neck, or face with the helmet or facemask.
    • Defensive players are prohibited from launching into a defenseless player in a way that causes the defensive player’s helmet or facemask to forcibly strike the defenseless player’s head, neck, or face, even if the initial contact of the defender’s helmet or facemask is lower than the defenseless player’s neck.
  • When tackling a passer during or just after throwing a pass, a defensive player is prohibited from unnecessarily and violently throwing him down and landing on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight.

1994

  • Defensive players are prohibited from blocking low during a punt, field goal, or extra point attempt (kick), except those defensive players at the snap that are lined up on or inside the normal tight end position. Previously, all players on the defensive team could block low during the field goal or extra point attempt.

1993

  • It is not intentional grounding when a passer, while out of the pocket and facing an imminent loss of yardage, throws a pass that lands beyond the line of scrimmage, even if no offensive player has a realistic chance to catch the ball (including if the ball lands out of bounds over the sideline or end line).

1992

  • For the first time, the chop block is illegal on some running plays: It is illegal on a running play for an offensive player who is lined up in the backfield at the snap to deliberately block a defensive player in the thigh or lower (chop) if the defensive player is engaged by an offensive player who was on the line of scrimmage at the snap. This action is prohibited whether on or behind the line of scrimmage in an area that extends laterally to the position originally occupied by the tight end on either side.
  • When a defensive player runs forward and leaps in an attempt to block an extra point or field goal, it is a foul only if the leaping player lands on other players.

1991

  • Officials will whistle the play dead whenever a defensive lineman clearly penetrates beyond the neutral zone before the ball is snapped and continues unabated toward the quarterback.

1990

  • A player who butts, spears, or rams an opponent may be disqualified if the action is flagrant or vicious.

1989

  • A defender (approaching from any direction) who has an unrestricted path to the quarterback is prohibited from flagrantly hitting him in the area of the knee(s).

1987

  • An offensive lineman may not clip a defender who, at the snap, is aligned on the line of scrimmage opposite another offensive lineman who is more than one position away, when the defender is responding to the flow of the ball away from the blocker.
  • Example: A tackle cannot clip the nose tackle on a sweep to the opposite side.
  • It is illegal for the kicking team to block below the waist after a free kick or punt has been made. (Low blocks by the receiving team became illegal in 1979).
  • Both teams are prohibited from blocking below the waist after a change of possession.

1986

  • Blocking below the waist on punts is prohibited during the entire down.
  • The “lure” technique is prohibited. When a tackle shows pass set, a teammate lined up outside him cannot chop a defender who is lined up over the tackle, even if the tackle and defender are not engaged (a “lure”).

1985

  • During the last two minutes of a half, the play ends when a quarterback kneels or simulates kneeling on the ground.
  • The ball is dead when any runner slides to the ground feet first, thereby declaring himself down.
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