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Basic Rules of Football

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New to Football: Starting the Game Icon

Starting the Game

Football games almost always begin with a coin toss to determine who will get the first possession. In non-contact leagues, and youth leagues attempting to minimize contact, the team that won the coin toss will get the ball in their part of the field. As participants get older, kickoffs eventually get worked into the game. When that happens, the kicking team will line up around their 40-yard line and kick the ball to the opposing team. The receiving team then starts where the ball went out of bounds or where the returner was downed.

New to Football: Moving the Ball Icon

Moving the Ball

There are two primary ways to move the ball in the game of football. The first is running the ball, where the quarterback either keeps the ball or gives the ball to either a running back or wide receiver, and they run up the field as far as they can. The other option is passing the ball down the field, where the quarterback throws the ball to a tight end, running back, or wide receiver and, after catching the ball, they run up the field as far as they can. The play stops when the offensive player tackled, or has their flags or TackleBars pulled off.

New to Football: Out of Bounds Icon

Out of Bounds

Football fields are marked with boundaries along all four sides of the field. If a player has possession of the ball and runs out of bounds their team starts their next possession where they went out at. However, if a player steps out of bounds before having full possession of the ball, particularly on a pass play, then it is counted as incomplete and their team takes their next possession from the previous spot.

New to Football: Out of Bounds Icon


Fouls, otherwise known as penalties, are usually handed out in yardage. The ball will be moved down the field either five, 10, or 15 yards at a time, hurting the team that made the foul and benefiting the other team. There are some instances where yardage increments can be more or less than the previously specified amounts depending on the infraction and location of the ball on the field, and, on rare occasions, players can be removed from the game. If there is a foul on the defense that moves the ball past the first down marker then the offense will get a new set of downs automatically.


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