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A B C D E F G H I J K L M
N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A
AFL:
An acronym for either the Arena Football League or the American Football League.

The AFL (Arena Football League) is similar to the NFL, but is played indoors on a smaller field. The old American Football League merged with the NFL in 1970, creating an expanded NFL made up of two conferences, the AFC and NFC.


AF2:
An acronym for the Arena Football 2 league.


Assisstant Coach:
The coaches that specialize in specific areas of the team and are directly under the supervision of the head coach.

Each NFL team generally has assistant coaches for offense and defense, as well more specialized areas like quarterbacks and linebackers.


Artificial Turf:
A synthetic surface used in place of grass on some football fields.

Because of a lack of sunlight, domed stadiums use artificial turf in place of grass on the football field.


Astroturf:
An artificial surface used instead of grass on some football fields.

Astroturf was first used in pro sports in 1966 when the Houston Astros began playing inside the Astrodome. Before the installation in the Astrodome, Astroturf was called Chemgrass.


Audible:
Changing a play at the line of scrimmage by calling out predetermined set of signals.

An audible is often called by the quarterback when he doesn't like the play call after getting a look at the defensive formation.


Automatic:
Changing a play at the line of scrimmage by calling out predetermined set of signals.

An automatic is often called by the quarterback when he doesn't like the play call after getting a look at the defensive formation.

B
Back:
An offensive player whose primary job is to run with the football.

A back generally lines up in the offensive backfield, but will occasionally split out as a receiver.


Back Judge:
The official who sets up 20 yards deep in the defensive backfield on the wide receiver side of the field. His duties include: Make sure the defensive team has no more than 11 players on the field
Watch all eligible receivers on his side of the field
Watch the area between the umpire and field judge
Rule on the legality of catches and pass interference penalties
Watch for clipping on kick returns
On field goals, stand under the goalpost and rule on whether the kick is good


Backfield:
1. The group of offensive players who line up behind the line of scrimmage.

2. The area behind the offensive linemen

The quarterback and running backs line up in the backfield.


Balanced Line:
A formation that consists of an equal number of linemen on either side of the center.

On offensive line consisting of a center with one guard and one tackle lined up on each side of him is considered a balanced line.


Ball Carrier:
Any player who has possession of the ball.

A ball carrier is generally a running back, wide receiver, or quarterback, but can include any player that happens to end up with the football in his hands.


Beat:
To get past an opponent trying to block, tackle, or defend you in any way.

Getting beat on a consistent basis will probably cost a player his job in the NFL.


Bird Cage:
To get past an opponent trying to block, tackle, or defend you in any way.

Getting beat on a consistent basis will probably cost a player his job in the NFL.


Blackout:
Not allowing a football game to be seen on television in the same local market that it is being played

A blackout is imposed in the NFL when a regional television affiliate is forbidden from showing a local game because it is not sold out


Blind Side:
The side opposite the direction a player is facing.

When a right-handed quarterback sets up for a pass, the left tackle is responsible for protecting his blind side.


Blitz:
A defensive strategy in which a linebacker or defensive back vacates his normal responsibilities in order to pressure the quarterback. The object of a blitz is to tackle the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage or force the quarterback to hurry his pass.

When a defensive line is having trouble putting pressure on the quarterback, the defensive coordinator may decide to help them out by sending one or more linebackers or defensive backs on a blitz.


Block:
Engaging an opponent in an effort to keep him from getting to a specific part of the field or player.


Bomb:
A long pass play in which the passer throws the ball to a receiver deep down the field.

The bomb is a low-percentage pass, but can swing the momentum of a game when it is successful.


Bootleg:
An offensive play where the quarterback fakes a hand-off to a running back going one direction while he goes the opposite direction to run or pass.

A bootleg is often used against a defense that is overpursuing the ball carrier.


Bowl Game:
College football games played after the regular season.

In college football, bowl games are played in leiu of a playoff system such as the NFL uses. There are numerous bowl games every year, and a national champion is crowned by matching up the No.1 and No.2 ranked teams in a championship bowl game.


Bump and Run:
A technique used by defensive backs to slow down a receiver's ability to get off the line of scrimmage. The defender bumps the receiver at the start of the play and attempts to throw him off his route by keeping contact over the first five yards.

Cornerbacks often use bump-and-run coverage to slow a receiver coming off the line of scrimmage.


Buttonhook:
A pass route in which the receiver heads downfield, then quickly turns back toward the line of scrimmage.

For a buttonhook to be effective, the receiver must convince the defensive back covering him that he is going to continue his pattern downfield.


C
Canadian Football:
Similar to American football, but with several rules and field variations that make it a little different.

The Canadian Football League is Canada's equivalent of the NFL.


Carry:
The act of running with the ball. In a game's box score, a runner's rushing attempts are listed as carries.

Many teams use a short-yardage back to carry the ball in goal-line situations.


Center:
1. The offensive lineman who hikes (or snaps) the ball to the quarterback at the start of each play.
2. The act of hiking (or snapping) the football.

After snapping the football, the center must be ready to block the defensive linemen.


CFL:
An acronym for the Canadian Football League, Canada's equivalent of the NFL.

The CFL is similar to the NFL, but there are several rules and field variations that make it different.


Chain Gang:
Assistants to the officials whose job is to mark where a team begins a series and how far they need to go to get a first down.

The chain gang brings the chains onto the field for measurements on plays that end too close to the first down for the officials to make a determination by simply comparing the spot of the ball with the marker on the sideline. The chains are brought out to give an exact measurement from the spot where the series started.


Cheap Shot:
A deliberate foul against an unsuspecting player.

A cheap shot is usually met with a personal foul and a penalty of 15 yards if spotted by an official.


Cheat Sheet:
A fantasy football term referring to the ranking of players in terms of their fantasy potential.

Cheat sheets are generally used to assist fantasy football players in their draft decisions. Cheat sheets can rank players overall or by position.


Check Off:
Changing a play at the line of scrimmage by calling out a predetermined set of signals.

A check off is often called by the quarterback when he doesn't like the play call after getting a look at the defensive formation.


Chop Block:
A block below the knees.

Offensive linemen often try to cut defensive linemen by using chop blocks.


Clipping:
An illegal block in which a player hits an opponent from behind, typically at leg level.

Clipping is a foul that results in a 15-yard penalty.


Clothesline:
An illegal play in which a player strikes an opponent across the face or neck with an extended arm.

The penalty for a clothesline is 15 yards.


Coffin Corner:
The corners of the football field located between the end zone and the five-yard line at each end of the field.

A punter often tries to kick the ball out of bounds near a coffin corner to stop the other team from returning the ball and to pin them back near their goal line.


Coin Toss:
Before the start of the game, the captain of the visiting team calls heads or tails of a coin flipped by the referee.

The team that wins the coin toss has the choice of kicking off or receiving the kick. The losing team chooses which goal they would like to defend.


Completiton:
A forward pass that is caught by an eligible receiver.

To be a completion, a receiver has to have possession and control of the football with both feet in bounds.


Conferences:
Groups into which teams are divided

In the NFL, teams are divided into the American Football Conference and the National Football Conference. College football has a number of different conferences.


Controlling the Clock:
Keeping possession of the football for long periods of time, giving the other team's offense less time to operate with the ball.

Controlling the clock also helps a team's defense by allowing them to rest for longer periods before having to go back out on the field.


Cornerback:
A defensive player who generally lines up on the outside of the formation and is usually assigned to cover a wide receiver.

A good cornerback can usually be counted on to stay with a receiver in one-on-one coverage.


Count:
The numbers that a quarterback shouts loudly while waiting for the ball to be snapped.

The quarterback sometimes uses a long count to try to draw the defense offsides.


Counter:
A running play designed to get the defense going in one direction while the running back goes back against the intended pursuit of the defense.

The counter is a great play to call when the defense is over-pursuing on a consistent basis.


Cover:
To defend a position, player, or location on the field.

Each defender is usually assigned a player or area of the field to cover on each play.


Coverage:
A defensive scheme designed to stop the pass, or a special teams scheme designed to limit the kick return.

The pass coverage on a particular play is generally determined in the huddle before the play.


Crackback Block:
An illegal block by an offensive player who is usually spread out away from the main body of the formation and runs back in towards the ball at the snap, blocking an opponent below the waist or in the back with the force of the block back toward the original position of the ball at the snap.

An illegal crackback block is penalized 15 yards against the offending team.


Curl:
A pass route where the receiver runs downfield before turning back to run towards the line of scrimmage.


Cut:
1. To suddenly change direction while running.
2. To drop a prospective player from the team roster.


Cut Back:
A sudden change in direction.

Cut backs are often designed into running plays to take advantage of the direction of pursuit by the defense.


D

Dead Ball:
The period of time between plays when the ball is no longer in play, which is determined by the officials signaling the play to be over.


Defense:
The unit that is responsible for keeping the opposition out of their end zone.

The defense is the unit that does not have possession of the football.


Defensive Back:
A member of the defensive secondary. Defensive backs generally try to keep receivers from making catches. Safeties, cornerbacks, nickel backs, and dime backs are considered to be defensive backs.

A good group of defensive backs can shut down an opponents passing game.


Defensive Backfield:
1. The area of the field behind the defensive linemen that is defended by the defensive backs.
2. Refers to the defensive backs themselves.


Defensive End:
A defensive player who lines up at the end of the defensive line.

The job of the defensive end is to contain the running back on running plays to the outside, and rush the quarterback on passing plays.


Defensive Holding:
Use of the hands to hold or push an offensive receiver or back on a passing play beyond the first five yards past the line of scrimmage.

Inside the five yard chuck zone, the defense may jam the receiver, but after that a penalty is called. Defensive holding results in a five-yard penalty on the offending team and an automatic first down.


Defensive Line:
The defensive players who line up on the line of scrimmage opposite the offensive linemen. A team's first line of defense.

The defensive line is usually made up of the biggest defensive players, including defensive ends and tackles.


Defensive Lineman:
The players who line up on the defensive line and are responsible for stopping the run on running plays and rushing the quarterback on passing plays.

The defensive line is comprised of a combination of defensive tackles or nose tackles, and defensive ends.


Defensive Tackle:
A defensive player who lines up on the interior of the defensive line.

The duties of a defensive tackle include stopping the running back on running plays, getting pressure up the middle on passing plays, and occupying blockers so the linebackers can roam free.


Defensive Team:
The unit that begins a play from scrimmage without the ball. The general role of the defense is to keep the opposition's offense from advancing the football.

The defensive team is the unit that does not have possession of the football.


Delay of Game:
A penalty called on a team for either letting the play clock expire before snapping the ball, having too many players on the field, or calling a time out after having already used all they were allotted by rule.

A delay of game infraction results in a five-yard penalty against the offending team.


Dime Back:
The sixth defensive back used in dime coverage.

Teams normally use four defensive backs. When a fifth defensive back comes in the game, he is referred to as the nickel back. When the sixth defensive back comes in, he is refered to as the dime back.


Dime Coverage:
A pass coverage scheme that involves the use of six defensive backs.

Dime coverage is generally used only in obvious passing situations.


Dime Package:
The use of six defensive backs in a defensive formation.

The dime package is generally used in obvious passing situations.


Division:
A sub-group within a conference.

The NFL is divided into eight division; four in each conference.


Double Coverage:
A defensive strategy where two players cover one of the opposition's receivers at the same time

Generally, a team's best wide receiver will face double coverage at times.


Double Foul:
A situation in which each team commits a foul during the same play.

A double foul usually results in offsetting penalties that negate the result of the play.


Double Team:
Playing two defensive players against one offensive player in order to prevent him from making a play.

Defensive backs often double team an offense's best wide receiver.


Down:
A play, starting when the ball is put into play and ending when the ball is ruled dead. Basically, a down is one play.


Down and In:
A pass pattern where the receiver runs straight downfield, then suddenly cuts toward the middle of the field.


Down and Out:
A pass pattern where the receiver runs straight downfield, then suddenly cuts toward the sideline.


Down Box:
A metal rod with a box on top that contains four cards, numbered one through four, that is used to keep track of the number of the down being played.

An assisstant to the officials generally holds the down box in the general area of the first down marker.


Down Lineman:
A defensive lineman, including defensive tackles and defensive ends.

The opposition's running game was shut down by the defenses down linemen.


Draft:
The selecting of collegiate players for entrance into the National Football League.

The team with the worst record in the NFL over the previous season is allowed to select the first player in the draft.


Draft Choice:
A player chosen by an NFL team from a pool of college players in an annual selection process.

The order in which an NFL team makes its draft choices is determined by the previous year's record.


Draw:
A disguised run that initially looks like a pass play. The offensive linemen fake like they are going to pass-block, the quarterback drops back like he is going to throw a pass, but instead turns and hands the ball to a running back.

The draw is a great play to call when the defense is applying a heavy pass rush.


Drive:
The series of plays that begins at the time an offense takes possession of the ball until the point where they either score or turn the ball over to the other team.


Drop Back:
An action by a quarterback, after taking the snap, where he takes a few steps backward into the pocket to set up for a pass.

Quarterbacks generally have a set number of steps they drop back on certain plays before setting up to throw the ball.


Drop Kick:
A free kick where a player drops the ball and kicks it right after it hits the ground.

A drop kick is rarely used in the NFL today.


E
Eligible Receiver:
An offensive player who can legally catch a forward pass.

Most of the time, an offensive lineman is not an eligible receiver, but a tackle can be eligible if he reports to the referee before the play.


Encroachment:
A foul in which a defender makes contact with a member of the offense before the snap.

Encroachment results in a five-yard penalty on the offending team.


End:
1. An offensive player who lines up on the very end of the line of scrimmage.
2. A defensive player who lines up on either end of the defensive line.

The end on the right side of an offense (for teams with right-handed quarterbacks) is referred to as a tight end, as he lines up close to the offensive linemen. The end on the opposite side is spread out toward the sideline, and is called a wide receiver.


End Line:
The very end of the field, at either end.

The end line is located at the very back of the end zone on either end of the field.


End Zone:
A 10-yard section stretching the width of the field at both ends of the playing field.

A player in possession of the football scores a touchdown when the ball crosses the goal line and enters the end zone.


Excessive Time Outs:
Calling a time out after having used the three allowed per half.

The penalty for excessive time outs is five yards against the offending team and the clock is restarted.


Extra Point:
After a touchdown, the scoring team is allowed to add another point by kicking the football through the uprights of the goalpost.

On an attempted extra point, the ball is placed on the 2-yard line in the NFL, or the 3-yard line in college or high school and is generally kicked from inside the ten-yard line.


F
Face Mask:
1. The bars attatched to a football helmet that cover a players face.
2. A foul for grabbing an opponent's face mask.

There are two levels of severity for face mask penalties. One results from incidental grabbing of a face mask where it is immediately released, and results in a five-yard penalty. A major face mask foul usually results from a player grabbing an opponent by the face mask and using it to pull the player down or twist his head around and results in a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down.


Fair Catch:
When the player returning a punt signals by waving his extended arm from side to side over his head, making it illegal for the opposition to tackle him.

After a player signals for a fair catch, he cannot run with the ball, and those attempting to tackle him can't touch him.


Fair Catch Interference:
A player may not interfere with a punt returner's opportunity to catch the football after having signaled for a fair catch.

The penalty for fair catch interference is 15 yards against the offending team.


Faking a Roughing:
An illegal act by a quarterback, kicker, or punter in which they fake being roughed by the opposition in the hopes of drawing a roughing penalty.

This foul is rarely called in the NFL, but when it is, it results in a 15-yard penalty against the offending team.


False Start:
An infraction in which an offensive player moves before the ball is snapped.

A false start results in a five-yard penalty against the offending team.


Fantasy Football:
A game played by football fans in which participants draft their own team and compete with teams built by others.

Scoring systems vary among fantasy football leagues, but most are based on points accumulated by players based on their real-life performance in a game on the same day.


Fantasy League:
A group of fantasy football teams that compete against one another for a league championship.

Fantasy leagues range in size, generally from six to 16 teams, and the rules can vary greatly from one league to another.


Field Goal:
A scoring play worth three points that involves a placekicker kicking the ball through the uprights of the goalpost in the opponent's end zone from anywhere on the field.

Generally, teams will attempt field goals on fourth down when they feel they are within reasonable distance of the goalpost in the opponent's end zone.


Field Judge:
The official that lines up 25 yards deep in the defensive backfield on the tight end side of the field. His duties include:
Keep track of the play clock and call delay of game if it expires
Make sure the defensive team has no more than 11 players on the field
Rule on plays that cross the defense's goal line
Watch all eligible receivers on his side of the field
Rule on the legality of catches and pass interference penalties on the strong side of the field
Mark the spot where a play goes out of bounds on his side of the field
Watch for illegal use of hands by the receivers and defensive backs
Field of Play:
The area of the field between the goal lines and the end lines.

The field of play includes anywhere in bounds.


Field Position:
The ball's location on the field.

Field position is a very important aspect of the game of football. Teams starting with poor field position have a tougher time scoring because they must move the ball farther to get into scoring position.


First and Ten:
Refers to a situation where a team has a first down with ten yards to go to get another first down.


First Down:
The first play of every series.

The offense must gain 10 yards or more in four downs to be awarded another first down.


Flag Football:

Similar to most other forms of football, but with typically six to nine players. Tackling is not permitted. Instead, a flag attatched to a belt and carried on each side of a player's hip must be pulled loose to constitute a tackle.


Flanker:
A player who catches passes. In an offensive formation, he usually lines up outside the tight end, off the line of scrimmage.


Flat:
The area of the field between the hash marks and the sideline near the line of scrimmage.

Running backs make a lot of their receptions in the flat on screen plays and swing passes.


Flood:
A strategy used by offenses where they send more players to a particular area of the field than the opposition can effectively cover.

Against zone defenses, an offense will flood a zone, forcing a defender to have to cover more than one player.


Formation:
A predetermined alignment that the offense or defense uses.

The formations used in football often vary depending on the situation.


Forward Pass:
Throwing the ball so that it ends up further downfield than it started.

A forward pass does not necessarily have to be thrown in the direction of the opponent's goal, but it must advance the ball at least slightly down the field.


Forward Progress:
The location to which a ball carrier's forward momentum carries him before he is tackled.

At the end of a play, the football is spotted at the point where the ball carriers forward progress is stopped, even if he is pushed backward by the defenders.


Foul:
Any violation of a playing rule.

An offensive tackle is guilty of a foul if he is caught holding a defensive player.


Franchise:
The legal arrangement that establishes ownership of a team.

In the NFL, there are 32 different franchises (teams).


Franchise Player:
1. A designation given to a player by his team to keep him from leaving via free agency. According to the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, the player must be paid the average salary of the top five players at his position.
2. A term used to refer to a superstar player who is invaluable to his team.

1. A team can use the franchise tag to keep one of their more valuable free agents from leaving the team.
2. The Cincinnati Bengals made Carson Palmer the first overall pick in the NFL Draft because the felt he had the ability to be a franchise player.


Free Agency:
An open signing period during which an NFL team can sign any unrestricted player who is without a contract.

Many players change teams during free agency.


Free Agent:
A professional football player who is not currently under contract with any football team.

A free agent may sign with any team he chooses.


Free Kick:
Either a kickoff or a punt following a safety.

After being tackled in their own end zone for a safety, a team must kick the ball to the opposition via a free kick.


Free Safety:
A defensive player who lines up the deepest in the secondary and defends the deep middle of the field against the pass.

A free safety's primary responsibility is to defend the pass.


Freeze:
Attempting to keep possession of the football for a long time without scoring or attempting to score.

As the end of a game approaches, the team with the lead may attempt to freeze the football.


Front Four:
The defensive linemen in a formation that includes two ends and two tackles.


Front Seven:
The front line of defense that generally includes the linemen and linebackers.


Fullback:
An offensive player who lines up in the offensive backfield and generally is responsible for blocking for the running back and also pass-blocking for the quarterback.


Fumble:
Fullbacks are usually bigger than running backs, and also serve as short-yardage runners.

G
Game Ball:
An informal award, consisting of a ball used in the game, normally given to a winning team's player or coach considered to have most contributed to the win.

Game balls are usually given out by the head coach in the locker room after the game.


Gap:
The open space between players along the line of scrimmage when they are aligned.

Each gap along the line of scrimmage usually has a number assigned to it, and running plays are usually designed to go through a specific gap.


Goal Line:
The line on each end of the field that separates the end zone from the rest of the playing field.

To score a touchdown, the football must break the plane of the opposition's goal line while a player has possession.


Goal-Line Stand:
Stopping the opposition at or near one's goal-line on a series of plays.

A goal line stand usually refers to a team's effort that keeps the opposition out of the end zone after they have started with a first down inside the five-yard line.


Goalpost:
The poles at the rear of each end zone through which teams score field goals and extra points.

The goalpost consists of a post, crossbar, and two uprights. The post that holds the uprights is 10 feet tall and placed approximately 80 feet from the sidelines. The crossbar, which is 18 feet, 6 inches in length, sits atop the post. The uprights extend 30 feet above the crossbar.


Gridiron:
The football field.


Guard:
A member of the offensive line. There are two guards on every play, and they line up on either side of the offensive center.

A good offensive guard is key to a potent running game.


Gunner:
The members of the special teams who specialize in racing downfield to tackle the kick or punt returner.

The gunners usually line up to the outside of the offensive line and are often double teamed by blockers.

H
Hail Mary:
An offensive play where the quarterback throws the ball up in the air without really targeting any particular receiver, hoping someone on his team catches it.

A Hail Mary is generally used on the last play of the half or end of the game when a team is out of field-goal range and has just enough time for one play. The ball is usually lofted up toward one side of the end zone where several receivers try to catch it while a group of defenders try to knock it down or intercept it.


Halfback:
An offensive player who lines up in the backfield and generally is responsible for carrying the ball on run plays.

Although a running back's primary role is to run with the football, he is also used as a receiver at times.


Handoff:
The act of giving the ball to another player.

A handoff generally refers to an act between the quarterback and running back, but can actually be performed by any two members of a team.


Hands Team:
A team of sure-handed players that specializes in recovering onside kicks.

During an onside kick, both teams put in their hands teams so they have the players on the field with the best ball-handling skills.


Hang Time:
The amout of time in which a punted ball remains in the air.

A ball punted 40 yards downfield with a hang time of 4.4 seconds is considered a good punt.


Hash Marks:
The two rows of lines near the center of the field marked off in one-yard increments.

On an NFL football field, the hash marks are 4 inches wide and located 70 feet, 9 inches from the sidelines.


Head Coach:
The member of the coaching staff that is responsible for all aspects of the team, and is in charge of all other coaches.

The head coach is basically in charge of the team itself.


Head Linesman:
The head linesman is the official that sets up straddling the line of scrimmage on the sideline designated by the referee.
His duties include:
Watch for line of scrimmage violations like offsides and encroachment
Rule on all out-of-bounds plays on his side of the field
Keep tabs on the chain crew
Mark the chain to a yard marker on the field as a reference point for a measurement on the field
Mark a players forward progress after a play is whistled dead
Keep track of all eligible receivers
Watch for illegal motion, illegal shifts, illegal use of hands, illegal men downfield


Helping the Runner:
Another player cannot assist the ball carrier by pushing or pulling them forward.

The penalty for helping the runner is 10 yards against the offending team.


Heisman Trophy:
An award presented annually by the Downtown Athletic Club of New York to the best college football player in the country.

The Heisman Trophy is named in honor of John W. Heisman, the first Athletic Director of the Downtown Athletic Club.


Hitch and Go:
A pass pattern where a receiver goes downfield to catch a pass, fakes a quick turn inside or outside, then continues downfield for a deeper pass.


Holder:
The player who catches the snap from the center and places it down for the placekicker to attempt to kick it through the uprights of the goalpost.

On an attempted field goal, the holder must catch the ball and put it into a good kicking position, ideally with the laces facing away from the kicker.


Holding:
An illegal action where one player keeps another from advancing by grabbing him and holding him back.

Offensive holding is a 10-yard penalty and the down is repeated. Defensive holding results in a five-yard penalty and an automatic first down.


Hole Number:
A number assigned to each gap or space between the five offensive linemen and the tight end.


Home-Field Advantage:
The benefit a team gets by playing games in its own stadium.

Home field advantage is enhanced by fan support, familiarity with the field and its surroundings, and the lack of required travel.


Hook and Ladder:
A pass play in which the receiver catches a pass facing toward the line of scrimmage, then laterals the ball to another offensive player who is racing toward the opponent's end zone.

The hook and ladder is considered a trick play by most coaches and is rarely used in the NFL.


Hot Dog:
A player who shows off by displaying flamboyant antics instead of going about his duties in a buisnesslike fashion.


Hot Receiver:
A receiver designated to accept a quick pass from the quarterback in the event of a blitz by the defense.

If a quarterback recognizes the blitz before the snap, he may audible to the hot receiver so he can get rid of the ball before the defense has a chance to get to him.


Huddle:
When the 11 players on the field from one team form a group to discuss the upcoming play.

Between plays, the players on each side of the ball huddle to discuss strategy.


Hurry-up Offense:
An offensive strategy designed to gain as much yardage as possible while running as little time off the clock as possible.

A team operating out of a hurry-up offense hurries back to the line of scrimmage as quickly as possible instead of huddling between plays.
I
I Formation:
An offensive formation that looks like an I because the two running backs line up directly behind the quarterback.

On short yardage plays, teams often run out of the I-formation.


Illegal Formation:
An offensive formation in which not enough players are on the line of scrimmage.

By rule, an NFL team must have seven men lined up on the line of scrimmage to begin every offensive play. Failure to do so is an illegal formation and a five-yard penalty against the offending team.


Illegal Motion:
An illegal movement where two offensive players are in motion at the same time when the ball is snapped.

Illegal motion results in a five yard penalty against the offending team.


Illegal Procedure:
A penalty that includes movement by an offensive player before the snap.

The penalty for illegal procedure is five yards against the offending team.


Illegal Shift:
A foul by the offense where a player fails to reset for at least one second after two players shift position at the same time.

The penalty for an illegal shift is five yards against the offending team.


In Bounds:
The region of the field that is considered in play.

The area that is in bounds includes anything inside the sidelines and end lines.


Incomplete Pass:
A forward pass that touches the ground before being caught or that is caught while the player is out of bounds.

After an incomplete pass, the football is spotted back at the previous line of scrimmage.


Incompletion:
A forward pass that hits the ground before the receiver has a chance to catch and control it.

After an incompletion, the football is spotted back at the previous line of scrimmage.


Intentional Grounding:
The quarterback, while he is still in the area between the tackles, purposely throwing the ball out of bounds or into the ground to avoid taking a sack.

Intentional grounding results in a ten-yard penalty and loss of down for the offending team.


Interception:
A pass that is caught by a defensive player, giving his team possession of the ball.

After an interception, the player that caught the ball can then advance it toward the opponent's end zone.


Interference:
1. Illegally hampering a player's opportunity to catch a pass.
2. Blocking for another player carrying the football.

J

K
Key:
A specific player, formation, or a shift in formation that serves as a clue as to the play the opposition is going to run.

The tight end in motion on a play might be a key that the offense is going to run a play in that particular direction.


Kick:
This term is used to refer to a placekicker's attempt to kick a field goal, extra point, or kickoff. Also refers to the act of kicking by either the placekicker of punter.


Kicking an Opponent:
An illegal act in which a player kneels on or kicks a member of another team.

Kicking an opponent results in a 15-yard penalty against the offending team, and the guilty player can be disqualified if the foul is ruled to be flagrant.


Kicking Game:
The aspect of the game that involves kickoffs, field goals, extra points, punts, and free kicks.


Kickoff:
A free kick that puts the ball into play at the start of the first and third periods and after every touchdown and field goal.

A football game always starts with a kickoff.


Kick Returner:
A special teams player who specializes in returning kickoffs.

A kick returner is usually one of the faster players on the team, often a reserve wide receiver.

L
Lateral:
A sideways or backwards pass thrown from one player to another.

Since it is not a forward pass, a lateral can be executed beyond the line of scrimmage.


Linebacker:
A defensive player who lines up behind the defensive linemen and in front of the defensive backfield. The linebackers are a team's second line of defense.

Most teams employ defenses that use either three or four linebackers.


Line Judge:
The official who lines up on the opposite side of the field from the head linesman. His duties include: Assist the head linesman on in making illegal motion, illegal shifts, offside and encroachment calls
Assist the umpire with illegal use of the hands and holding calls
Assist the referee on false start calls
Make sure the quarterback does not cross the line of scrimmage before throwing the ball
Watch for offensive lineman going downfield too early on punts
Supervise the timing of the game
Supervise substitutions by the team on his side of the field


Lineman:
An offensive or defensive player who starts each play lined up on the line of scrimmage.

A lineman can be a tackle, guard, or center on offense, or a tackle or end on defense.


Linemen:
The players that line up on the line of scrimmage.

On offense, linemen consist of guards, tackles, and centers. On defense, there are tackles and ends.


Line of Scrimmage:
An imaginary line stretching the width of the field that separates the two teams prior to the snap of the ball.

The line of scrimmage is determined by the points of the football with the width of the football representing the neutral zone.


Line to Gain:
Term that indicates the distance needed for first-down yardage.


Live Ball:
A ball that is in play while a play is in progress.


Long Snapper:
The center who specializes in snapping the ball for punts and field goal attempts.


Loose Ball:
A ball that is not in possession of either team.

A ball that is lying, or rolling around on the ground after a fumble is considered a loose ball.

M
Man in Motion:
An offensive player who runs behind the line of scrimmage and parallel to it, as the quarterback calls the signals.

Usually running backs, tight ends and wide receivers are sent in motion. A man in motion is used to give the player a running start or to move him to another position in the formation.


Man-to-Man Coverage:
Pass coverage in which every defensive back is assigned to a particular receiver.

A defensive back must be careful not to let the receiver get by him in man-to-man coverage because he does not have any other defenders assigned to help him with that particular receiver.


Middle Guard:
The defensive tackle who lines up opposite the offensive center.

A middle guard is generally big and strong enough to take on double teams on a consistent basis.


Midfield:
The area of the field in the general vicinity of the 50-yard line.


Motion:
When an offensive player begins to move laterally behind the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped.

An offense often tries to confuse the defense by sending a receiver or running back in motion.


Mousetrap:
A blocking scheme where a defensive player is allowed through the offensive line only to be blocked by another player behind the line.

A tight end is often put in motion on a mousetrap so that he gets to the area behind the line of scrimmage where the defender is coming through the line.


Multiple Offense:
An offensive strategy that utilizes a number of different formations.

A team will use a multiple offense to try to confuse the defense.

N
National Football League:
The largest and most recognizable professional football league in the world.

The National Football League consists of 32 teams divided into eight four-team divisions.


Necessary Line:
A line the offense must cross to get a new first down.

When a team gets a first down, the new necessary line is exactly ten yards away.


Neutral Zone:
The area between the two lines of scrimmage, stretching from sideline to sideline.

The width of the neutral zone is defined by length of the football.


NFL:
An acronym for the National Football League.

The NFL is the world's most popular professional football league and it is based in the United States.


NFL Championship:
The game that decides the champion of the NFL.

The NFL Championship was renamed the Super Bowl in 1967.


Nickel Back:
An extra defensive back who is used mostly in obvious passing situations.

A defensive back is referred to as a nickel back when he is the fifth defensive back on the field.


Nickel Defense:
A defensive formation that utilizes five defensive backs.

Teams usually switch to a nickel defense when the opposition's offense is in obvious passing situations.


Nose Guard:
The defensive tackle who lines up opposite the offensive center.

A nose guard is generally big and strong enough to take on double teams on a consistent basis.


Nose Tackle:
The defensive player who lines up directly across from the center.

The primary responsibilities of the nose tackle are to stop the run and to occupy the offensive lineman to keep them from blocking the linebackers.

O
Odds:
The return on money bet on a game, which is based on the likely outcome of the game as determined by an Oddsmaker.

Every year, oddsmakers assign odds of each team winning the Super Bowl that season. If you bet on 2-1 odds and win, you will receive two dollars for every dollar you bet. The odds for a team to make it to the Super Bowl may vary from 2-to-1 to 100s-to-1 depending on how much of a chance the oddsmakers think that team has of winning. Odds are commonly set on many other football events as well.


Oddsmaker:
One who establishes the odds for sports betting.

Casinos that allow sports betting have an oddsmaker that determines the odds for different events.


Offending Team:
The team that committed a foul.

After commiting a foul, penalty yardage is marked off against the offending team.


Offense:
The team that has possession of the football and attempts to advance it toward the defense's goal line.

The main goal of an offense is to pass or run the football into the opposing team's goal for a touchdown. The offense plays against the other team's defense.


Offensive Backfield:
The area of the field or the players lined up behind the offensive linemen.

The offensive backfield normally consists of a quarterback and at least one running back. Wide receivers sometimes line up in the offensive backfield.


Offensive Holding:
A foul in which an offensive player keeps a defender from advancing by grasping him with his hands or arms. Offensive linemen are allowed to use their hands as long as they keep them to the inside of a defenders body, but if they get to the outside of the defender's body, it is a penalty.

Offensive holding results in a 10-yard penalty against the offending team.


Offensive Line:
The five offensive players that line up on the line of scrimmage and block for the quarterback and ball carriers.

Every offensive line consists of a center, two offensive guards, and two offensive tackles.


Offensive Linemen:
The offensive players that line up on the line of scrimmage, whose primary job is to block the defensive players.

Offensive linemen include centers, guards, and tackles.


Offensive Pass Interference:
A penalty in which an offensive player significantly hinders a defensive player's opportunity to intercept a forward pass or pushes off of the defender to give himself an advantage.

Offensive pass interference results in a 10-yard penalty on the offending team.


Officials:
The men in the striped shirts who officiate the game.

The crew of officials consists of a referee, umpire, head linesman, line judge, back judge, field judge, and side judge.


Off-Season:
The period of the year after the final game is over and before training camp opens.

The NFL Draft, free agent signings, and mini-camps are all regular off-season events for the NFL.


Offside:
A penalty that occurs when any part of a defender's body is beyond his line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped.

An offside infraction results in a five-yard penalty against the offending team.


Off-Tackle:
A running play designed to go to the strong side and take advantage of the hole supplied by the tackle, the tight end, and the full back.

When running off-tackle, a running back can take the ball either outside the tackle or around the tight end. The fullback's duty is to block the outside linebacker, giving the ball carrier room to run.


Onside Kick:
An attempt by the kicking team to recover the ball by kicking it a short distance down the field.

An onside kick must travel at least 10 yards before the kicking team can legally touch it, however, the ball does not have to be touched by a defender before the kicking team attempts to recover it.


Open Up Holes:
Pushing the opposition aside to make room in their defense for a ball carrier to run with the ball.

Offensive linemen try to open up holes in the defensive line for the running backs to get through.


Open Receiver:
Any potential receiver that breaks away from pass coverage.

A good quarterback has a knack for finding the open receiver.


Option:
An offensive play in which the quarterback has the choice (option) of either passing, running, or pitching the ball to a running back.

The option is commonly used in high school and college football, but is rarely used in the NFL.


Out of Bounds:
The area touching or outside the sidelines and end line.

A player is considered out of bounds if they are touching or beyond the sidelines or end lines.


Out of Bounds at Snap:
A player may not enter the field of play after the football is snapped.

The penalty for being out of bounds at the snap is five yards against the offending team.


Outside:
The general area of the field that is near, or in the direction of the sideline.

On a pitch play, the running back usually tries to get to the outside quicker than the defense so he can turn the corner and run in the direction of the goal line.


Overtime:
An extra period tacked onto the end of a game when regulation ends in a tie.

In the NFL, overtime ends as soon as either team scores in any way. This is referred to as Sudden Death Overtime.


P
Pass:
The act of throwing the ball to another player.

Throwing the ball so that it ends up further downfield than it started is a forward pass. A pass that goes backward or parallel to the line of scrimmage is considered a lateral.


Pass Defender:
A defensive player whose assignment is to cover an opposing receiver.

Defensive backs are generally pass defenders, but linebackers and even occasionally linemen will drop back in coverage.


Pass Interference:
Illegally hindering another player's chances of catching a forward pass.

Defensive pass interference awards the offensive team the ball at the spot of the foul with an automatic first down. Offensive pass interference results in a 10-yard penalty against the offense.


Pass Pattern:
A predetermined route run by a receiver in an attempt to get open for a pass.

The pass pattern a receiver runs is determined by the play called in the huddle before the play.


Pass Protection:
The blocking scheme used by offensive players to keep the defense from getting to the quarterback on passing plays.

A quarterback usually indicates in the huddle which pass protection scheme his offensive teammates will use.


Pass Route:
A predetermined path run by a receiver in an attempt to get open for a pass.

The pass route a receiver runs is determined by the play called in the huddle before the play.


Pass Rush:
An attempt by the defensive players to get to the quarterback so they can tackle him before he can complete a pass.

A pass rush can come in a number of different forms. Teams often pass rush just three or four down linemen, or they can also use one or more linebackers or defensive backs to add a blitz to their pass rush.


Passing Game:
The offensive attack created by throwing the football.

A team with a good passing game can usually move the ball up and down the field with relative quickness.


PAT:
After a touchdown, the scoring team is allowed to add another point by kicking the football through the uprights of the goalpost.

On an attempted PAT, the ball is placed on the 2-yard line in the NFL, or the 3-yard line in college or high school and is generally kicked from inside the ten-yard line.


Penalty:
Punishment for an infraction of the rules.

A penalty usually consists of some sort of loss of yardage by the offending team, but it can also include losing a down on certain penalties.


Personal Foul:
A flagrant illegal act that is generally deemed to unnecessarily risk the health of other players.

Personal fouls include, but are not limited to late hits, unnecessary roughness, and blows to the head. A personal foul results in a 15-yard penalty against the offending team.


Pick:
1. An offensive maneuver in which two receivers cross and one bumps the defender of the other.
2. Another term for interception


Pick Off:
A pass that is caught by a defensive player, giving possession to the team that intercepted it.

Keeping a receiver from catching the ball is the main goal of a defensive back, but a pick-off can change the course of the game.


Pigskin:
A slang term for the football.

A football is often referred to as the pigskin, but it is actually made of leather.


Piling On:
An illegal play where several players jump on the player with the ball after he's been tackled.

Piling on results in a 15-yard penalty against the offending team.


Pitch:
The act of the quarterback tossing the ball to a running back who is moving laterally away from him.

An offense often uses a pitch, instead of a handoff, to give the running back a running start toward the outside.


Pitch Out:
The act of the quarterback tossing the ball to a running back who is moving laterally away from him.

An offense often uses a pitch out, instead of a handoff, to give the running back a running start toward the outside.


Placekick:
A kick made while the ball is held in place on the ground by either another player or a tee.

On field goals, a placekick is held in position by another player called the holder. On kickoffs, the ball is usually held by a tee unless the wind is strong enough to blow it over. In that case, another player holds it in place for the kick.


Placekicker:
The player who kicks the ball on kickoffs, extra point attempts, and field goal attempts.

A placekicker either kicks the ball while it's being held by a teammate or kicks it off a tee.


Play:
In general, the actions of the players following a snap or kickoff. More specifically, the type of action taken as part of a planned manuever.

On offense, there are two basic types of plays; running and passing. On special teams, there are a number of different types of kicking plays.


Play-Action Pass:
A pass play where the quarterback fakes a handoff to a running back while he's dropping back to pass.

On a play-action pass, the quarterback hopes to fake the defenders into thinking the offense is going to run the ball. By doing so, he accomplish two things. He slows down the pass rush of the defense and he forces the defensive backs to make a decision between covering their assigned receiver or coming up to help stop the run.


Playbook:
A collection of plays a team uses put into a notebook format.

A playbook is issued to each member of the team and it includes terms, strategies, and plays used by that specific team.


Play Clock:
A clock displayed above each end zone that limits the time teams may take between plays.

If an offense fails to snap the ball before the play clock expires, they are assessed a five-yard penalty for delay of game.


Playmaker:
A player that has a history of making big plays.

A player often referred to as a playmaker includes players that consistently make long gains or get into the end zone on offense. On defense, a playmaker is a player that consistently creates turnovers, sacks the quarterback, or just generally makes a lot of stops behind or near the line of scrimmage.


Playoffs:
The post-season tournament that determines the NFL champion.

To get into the playoffs, a team must either win their division or have one of the two best records of all non-division winners in their conference.


Pocket:
The area of protection given to a quarterback by his offensive line when he drops back to pass.

The pocket generally includes the area behind the line of scrimmage and between the two offensive tackles.


Point After Touchdown:
After a touchdown, the scoring team is allowed to add another point by kicking the football through the uprights of the goalpost.

On an attempted point after touchdown, the ball is placed on the 2-yard line in the NFL, or the 3-yard line in college or high school and is generally kicked from inside the ten-yard line.


Point Spread:
A gambling term that indicates the number of points one team is favored over another by oddsmakers.

The point spread on a game is a prediction of the difference in the scores of two teams that are playing each other.


Pooch Kick:
A low, line drive kickoff that often bounces around before it is fielded by the kick returner.

A pooch kick is often used against a team with a dangerous kick returner or as time is running out in the game or half. A pooch kick is less likely to be returned for a touchdown and uses more time off the clock than a normal kickoff.


Possession:
1. When a team has control of the ball, the are considered to be in possession of it.
2. When a player maintains control of the ball while touching both feet, or any other part of his body other than his hands, to the ground.

1. A team's possession begins when they take over on offense and ends when they give up the ball either by turnover, punt, or scoring.
2. On a pass play, a player must have possession of the ball before going out of bounds to complete the pass.


Post:
A forward pass that the quarterback throws down the center of the field as the intended receiver runs toward the goalpost.

On a post pattern, a receiver will start by running straight downfield before turning and running at an angle toward the goalpost


Post-Season:
The time after the regular season is over when a tournament is played to determine a champion.

In the NFL, the postseason tournament determines which teams will meet in the Super Bowl.


Power Sweep:
A running play in which two or more offensive linemen pull out of their stances and run toward the outside of the line of scrimmage, leading the running back who receives a handoff or pitch from the quarterback.

To run a successful power sweep, a team must have guards with agility and the speed to get outside the line.


Preseason:
The period of time before the regular season during which teams play exhibition games and check out new players.

Preseason in the NFL usually lasts from the beginning of August through Labor Day, when the regular season starts.


Previous Spot:
The exact location on the field where the ball was placed before the preceding play.

Penalties called during a play are often enforced from the previous spot of the football.


Primary Receiver:
The receiver who, on a particular play, is designed to be the first option for the quarterback to throw the ball to.

If the primary receiver is not open, the quarterback must then look for his second and third options.


Pulling:
When a player leaves one area of the field, generally moving back and then over, to block in an area other than his normal position.

A sweep is a good example of a play that uses pulling blockers. Generally, the two guards pull out of their normal blocking zones and run to a predetermined side of the field to block for the running back.


Pump Fake:
A move the quarterback uses to deceive the defense by moving his arm in a throwing motion in the direction of a receiver, but holding onto the ball and drawing it back to throw in another direction or area of the field.

A quarterback might use a pump fake toward a receiver that is in a short pattern over the middle to draw the free safety up before throwing a deep pass to a wide receiver racing down one of the sidelines.


Punt:
A kick made when the punter drops the ball and kicks it while it falls toward his foot.

A punt usually occurs on fourth down and is designed to drive the other team back as far as possible before they take possession of the ball.


Punter:
The player who stands behind the line of scrimmage, catches the long snap from the center, and then kicks the ball after dropping it toward his foot.

The punter generally comes in on fourth down to punt the ball to the other team with the idea of driving the other team as far back as possible before they take possession of the ball.


Punt Return:
Running the ball back toward the punting team after it's been punted

On a punt return, the player receiving the ball has the option of running the ball back or calling for a fair catch.


Pylon:
A short orange foam marker that marks all four corners of each end zone.

The pylon helps officials determine where the goal line and end line meet the sidelines.


Q
Quarter:
One period of a football game.

An NFL football game is divided into four quarters of 15 minutes each. High school games have 12-minute quarters.


Quarterback:
The offensive player who receives the ball from the center at the start of each play before either handing it to the running back, throwing it to a receiver, or running with it himself.

The quarterback is usually the player in charge of running the offense on the field. He is also the guy that usually informs the offense of the play while in the huddle.


Quarterback Rating:
A formula used to calculate a quarterback's effectiveness in the passing game.

The quarterback rating takes into account such things as completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown passes, and interceptions.


Quarterback Sneak:
An offensive play where the quarterback receives the snap from center and immediately runs or jumps forward.

A quarterback sneak is usually only used in short-yardage situations.


Quick Count:
A strategy where the quarterback calls the signals at the line of scrimmage very fast so as to throw off the other team or catch them by surprise.


Quick Kick:
A play where the offense lines up in a formation as if they are going to run an offensive play, but the player taking the snap surprises the defense by punting the ball.


R
Reading the Defense:
The act of recognizing defensive formations and keys.

A quarterback that is good at reading the defense will often audible to a play he feels will be better against the defensive formation.


Ready List:
A short list of plays tailored specifically for an upcoming game.

A head coach prepares a ready list of plays that he feels will be effective against a certain team's weaknesses.


Receiver:
An offensive player whose job it is to catch the football.

A team's receivers can consist of wide receivers, tight ends, running backs, and in special cases, even an offensive tackle.


Recover:
Taking control of a ball that has been fumbled.

A player can recover a fumble by either picking the football up or by falling to the ground and pulling it into his body to control it.


Red Dog:
A defensive strategy in which a linebacker or defensive back vacates his normal responsibilities in order to pressure the quarterback. The object of a red dog is to tackle the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage or force the quarterback to hurry his pass.

When a defensive line is having trouble putting pressure on the quarterback, the defensive coordinator may decide to help them out by sending one or more linebackers or defensive backs on a red dog.


Redshirt:
A college football player who skips a year of play without losing a year of eligibility. A player will often redshirt because of an injury or acedemic problem.

A redshirt freshman is a player who is actually in his second year of school, but is playing his first season of football. A player can only be redshirted once.


Red Zone:
The area between the 20-yard line and the goal line at both ends of the field.

How well a team performs in the red zone can often determine the outcome of a game.


Referee:
The referee is the official that has control of the game and is generally the final authority in all decisions.

Among his duties are: Announce all penalties
Explain penalties to the offending team's captain
Explain penalties to the head coach of the offending team and inform him of who it was called against
Position himself in the backfield, approximately 10 yards behind the quarterback, before each snap
Monitor illegal hits on the quarterback
Watch for illegal blocks near the quarterback
Determine whether the yardage chains should be brought on the field for a measurement

You can tell the referee from the other officials because he is the only one that wears a white hat.

All other officials wear black hats.

Regular Season:
The actual football season, which excludes the preseason and the playoffs.

In the NFL, the regular season lasts for 17 weeks during which a team plays 16 games to determine their eligibility and ranking going into the playoffs.


Return:
The act of bringing the ball back in the opposite direction after a change of possession.

A return often refers to the distance a ball is advanced after a turnover, punt, or kickoff.


Returner:
A player who runs back kickoffs and/or punts.

A returner is usually a player that has good hands and great speed.


Reverse:
A play in which the running back receives a handoff from the quarterback and then runs laterally behind the line of scrimmage before handing off to a receiver running in the opposite direction.

A reverse is often used against a defense that has a tendancy to overpursue.


Roll:
The act of the quarterback moving left or right out of the pocket before throwing or running with the football.

Teams usually have plays that allow the quarterback to roll away from pressure by the defense.


Roll Out:
The act of the quarterback moving left or right out of the pocket before throwing or running with the football.

Teams usually have plays that allow the quarterback to roll out to get away from pressure by the defense.


Rookie:
A player in his first season in the NFL or other professional league.

In the NFL, a rookie is often forced to carry the bags, or supply donuts for the veteran football players.


Roster:
A list of the members of a football team.

An NFL team is limited to just 53 players on its roster.


Roughing the Kicker:
Flagrantly running into or hitting the kicker after the ball has been kicked.

Roughing the kicker is a personal foul and results in a 15-yard penalty against the offending team.


Roughing the Passer:
Flagrantly running into or hitting the quarterback after the ball has been released. Can also be called when a defender hits the quarterback in the head.

Roughing the passer is a personal foul and results in a 15-yard penalty against the offending team.


Route:
A predetermined direction and distance that a receiver follows when he runs from the line of scrimmage for a forward pass.

Every receiver has a predetermined route that he must run on each particular play.


Runback:
Returning a kickoff, punt, fumble recovery, or interception.

Anytime there is a change of possession, the distance the player with the football advances it is considered the runback.


Running Back:
An offensive player who runs with the football.

On most running plays, the running back(s) lines up in the offensive backfield.


Running Into the Kicker:
Making incidental contact with a placekicker or punter after the ball has been kicked. A less serious version of the roughing the kicker penalty.

Running into the kicker carries a five-yard penalty while roughing the kicker results in a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down.


Rush:
1. To run from the scrimmage line with the football.
2. To put pressure on the quarterback in an attempt to tackle him or force him into a bad throw.


S
Sack:
Any tackle of the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage.

The goal of a pass rusher is to sack the quarterback on pass plays.


Safety:
1. A two-point score by the defense that occurs when one of its players tackles an opponent in possession of the ball in his own end zone.
2. A defensive player who lines up in the secondary between, but generally deeper the the cornerbacks.

1. A safety is one of the rarest ways of scoring during a game of football.
2. A safety is usually a teams last line of defense.


Safety Blitz:
A defensive tactic where one or both safeties rush the quarterback.

A safety blitz is designed to either sack the quarterback before he throws a pass, or force him into hurrying his throw, hopefully causing him to throw a bad pass.


Safety Valve:
A short pass thrown to a running back when the quarterback cannot find an open receiver before the pass rush closes in.

After throwing a block, a running back will often move into the flat as a safety valve in case the quarterback cannot find a receiver down the field.


Salary Cap:
The maximum amount of money that a team can spend on player salaries in a given year.

In the NFL, the salary cap number is based on gross revenue of league-wide income, most of it coming from network television contracts and ticket sales.


Scheme:
A term used to describe offensive and defensive formations and the overall strategy for using such a formation.


Scramble:
A tactic where a quarterback runs around behind the line of scrimmage to avoid tacklers while buying time for his receivers to get open.

An ability to scramble is a plus for any quarterback and can be very frustrating for pass rushers.


Scrambler:
A quarterback who has the ability to buy time for his receivers by running around and avoiding tacklers.


Scrambling:
The act, by a quarterback, of moving around to avoid the pass rush.

Scrambling will often buy time for a quarterback's receivers to get open.


Screen Pass:
A forward pass in which the defensive linemen are allowed to get through the offensive line while two offensive linemen run wide to a specific side of the field and then turn and block upfield for a running back who takes a short pass from the quarterback.

A screen pass can be very effective against aggressive defenses who rush the quarterback.


Scrimmage:
1. The action between two teams when the ball is snapped.
2. A simulated game.

During training camp teams often scrimmage with other teams as a means of getting ready for the regular season.


Secondary:
1. The defensive players who line up behind the linebackers and basically defend the pass.
2. The area of the field defended by the defensive backs.
Second Forward Pass

The secondary includes the cornerbacks, safeties, and any other defensive backs used in nickel and dime formations.


Series:
The four downs that a team has to advance 10 yards.

A new series starts every time a team gets a first down.


Shift:
The movement of one or more players to a different position in a formation before the football is snapped.

Shifts are often used on both sides of the ball to create confusion for the opposition.


Shotgun:
A passing formation in which the quarterback stands 5 to 7 yards beind the center before the snap.

The shotgun formation allows the quarterback to scan the defense while standing back from the line of scrimmage.


Side Judge:
The official that lines up 20 yards deep in the defensive backfield. His duties are essentially the same as the back judge: Make sure the defensive team has no more than 11 players on the field
Watch all eligible receivers on his side of the field
Watch the area between the umpire and field judge
Rule on the legality of catches and pass interference penalties
Watch for clipping on kick returns


Sidelines:
The line along each side of the field that marks where the field of play ends.

When a player crosses the sideline on a play, they are considered to be out of bounds and the play is marked dead where the ball crossed the line.


Signal Caller:
The player who calls the plays in the huddle or on the line of scrimmage.

On most football teams, the quarterback is the signal caller.


Signals:
The code that a team uses to call their plays.

Signals are called both in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage and can consist of code words, numbers, and actions such as lifting a foot.


Single Elimination:
A tournament where a team is eliminated after just one loss.

The NFL playoffs are a single-elimination tournament.


Single-Wing Formation:
A rarely used offensive formation devised by legendary coach Pop Warner that used three backfield teammates to block for the player carrying the ball.

The single-wing formation is rarely used at any level anymore.


Slant:
A play in which the ball carrier runs across the field at an angle instead of running straight toward the end zone.


Slot:
A gap in the line between the wide receiver and a tackle.

In three-receiver sets, a wide receiver sets up in the slot and is referred to as a slot receiver.


Snap:
The action in which the ball is thrown or handed by the center to the quarterback, to the holder on a kick attempt, or to the punter.

On most plays, the quarterback is directly behind the center so that he can receive the snap more accurately.


Spearing:
Hitting another player with the crown of the helmet.

Spearing is illegal and results in a 15-yard penalty against the offending team.


Special Teams:
The group of players who are on the field during kicks and punts.

Special teams play on field goal and extra point attempts as well as punts and kickoffs.


Spike:
The act of slamming the football to the ground.

A player often spikes the ball in celebration after scoring a touchdown.


Spiral:
The spin on the ball in flight after the quarterback releases it.

A ball will travel farther and more accurately when it is thrown with a tight spiral.


Split End:
The receiver that usually lines up on the line of scrimmage, but split to the outside of the formation.


Spot:
The exact location on the field that a player's forward progress is stopped, as marked by an official.

Officials also spot the ball when marking off penalty yardage.


Square In:
A pass pattern where the runner goes downfield then turns in at a right angle to the center of the field.


Square Out:
A pass pattern where the runner goes downfield then turns sharply out to the sideline.


Squib Kick:
A low, line drive kickoff that often bounces around before it is fielded by the kick returner.

A squib kick is often used against a team with a dangerous kick returner or as time is running out in the game or half. A squib kick is less likely to be returned for a touchdown and uses more time off the clock than a normal kickoff.


Stance:
The position that a player assumes prior to the snap of the ball.

Linemen usually get down in a stance where they have at least one hand on the ground when the ball is snapped.


Stiff Arm:
Using a hand and straight arm at the opponents head or chest area to avoid a tackle.


Straight Arm:
Using a hand and stiff arm at the opponents head or chest area to avoid a tackle.


Striking an Official:
No player may intentionally strike or push an official.

Striking an official is a 15-yard penalty and the guilty player is automatically diqualified from the game.


Striking an Opponent:
A player may not strike another with a fist.

Striking an opponent is a personal foul and results in a 15-yard penalty, and the offending player can be disqualified from the game.


Strong Safety:
A defensive player who generally lines up in the secondary to help stop the pass, but often aligns close to the line of scrimmage to help stop the run.

In most defenses, the strong safety lines up over the tight end and is responsible for both playing the pass and supporting the run.


Strong Side:
The side of the offensive formation where the tight end aligns.

With a right-handed quarterback, the strong side is generally to his right side.


Stunt:
A pass-rushing maneuver by two defensive linemen in which they alter their course to the quarterback, hoping to confuse the offensive linemen.

In most stunts, one defensive lineman crosses behind another in hopes of either going unblocked or gaining an advantage on his blocker.


Substitution:
The act of replacing one player with another.

Teams have become so specialized, that it is not unusual to see multiple sustitutions on many plays throughout a game.


Subway Alumni:
The followers of any college team who didn't attend or graduate from that institution.

The term subway alumni was first used to describe the many New York City fans who followed Notre Dame football.


Succeeding Spot:
The spot where the next play begins, provided no penalty was called.


Suicide Squad:
The group of players who are on the field during kicks and punts that run down field and try to break through the wedge created by the return team.


Super Bowl:
The National Football League's championship game.

In 1967, the NFL changed the name of the NFL's championship game to the Super Bowl.


Sweep:
A running play in which two or more offensive linemen pull out of their stances and running toward the outside of the line of scrimmage, leading the running back who receives a handoff or pitch from the quarterback.

On sweeps, many teams like to run a fake in the other direction first to slow down the pursuit.

T
T-Formation:
An offensive formation that features three running backs in the backfield. From above, the center, quarterback and running backs appear to be lined up in the shape of a T.

The T-formation was made popular by the Chicago Bears George Halas.


Tackle:
1. To bring down an offensive player who has the ball.
2. Also refers to a position on both the defensive and offensive lines.

For a defender, the main objective is to tackle any offensive player with the ball.


Tailback:
An offensive player whose primary role is to carry the ball.


Takeaway:
When a defense forces a fumble and recovers the ball or registers an interception.

One of the variables used to measure the quality of a defense is the number of takeaways they have recorded.


TD:
An abbreviation for touchdown.


Territory:
The half of the field defended by a particular team.

If the opposition's offense crosses the 50-yard line, they have entered the other team's territory.


Third-and-Long:
A situation in which a team finds themselves forced to run a third-down play in which they need to gain considerable yardage to get the first down.

Third-and-long is usually considered anything over six or seven yards.


Three-Point Stance:
The starting position many linemen take at the line of scrimmage before the football is snapped.

The three-point stance gets its name from the player contacting the ground with three points, generally leaning forward with one hand and two feet on the ground.


Tight End:
An offensive player who serves as a receiver and also a blocker.

The tight end lines up beside the offensive tackle either to the right or to the left of the quarterback.


Time Out:
A break in action requested by either team or one of the officials.

In the NFL, each team receives three time outs per half.


Too Many Men on the Field:
Each team is allowed just 11 men on the field during a play. Having more than 11 is illegal.

If a team has too many men on the field, a delay of game is called, resulting in a five-yard penalty.


Touchback:
A play in which the ball is ruled dead on or behind a team's own goal line, generally after a kickoff, punt, interception, or fumble.

After a touchback, the ball is spotted on the offense's 20-yard line.


Touchdown:
A scoring play in which any part of the ball, while legally in the possession of a player who is in-bounds, crosses the plane of the opponent's goal line.

A touchdown is worth six points, and the scoring team is given the option of attempting to add one or two bonus points on the next play.


Trap Block:
A blocking scheme where a defensive player is allowed through the offensive line only to be blocked by another player behind the line.

A tight end is often put in motion on a trap block so that he gets to the area behind the line of scrimmage where the defender is coming through the line.


Trenches:
The area immediately around the line of scrimmage.

The area of the field where offensive and defensive linemen do battle is often referred to as the trenches.


Tripping:
Using a leg or foot to trip another player is illegal.

Tripping results in a 10-yard penalty against the offending team.


Turn In:
A pass route where the player runs downfield then turns in toward the middle of the field.


Turn Out:
A pass pattern where the player runs downfield then turns out toward the sidelines.


Turnover:
A loss of possession of the ball via a fumble or interception.

Turnovers are usually a big factor in the outcome of a game.


Two-Minute Warning:
A official's timeout at the end of each half that signals just two minutes remain.

The two-minute warning often serves as an extra timeout for a trailing team that manages the clock properly.


Two-Point Conversion:
A scoring play, immediately after a touchdown, in which a team can add two bonus points by running or passing the ball into the end zone on one play starting from the opponent's two-yard line.

In college football, the two-point conversion begins on an opponent's three-yard line.

U
Umpire:
The umpire is the official that lines up approximately five yards off the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball.
His duties include:
Checking the legality of the players' equipment
Making sure the offense has no more than 11 men on the field
Monitor the legality of play on the line of scrimmage with a special emphasis on offensive holding and illegal linemen down field
Assist the referee on decisions involving possession of the ball
Record all timeouts
Record all scores
Record the winner of the coin toss
Wipes the ball dry between plays on rainy days


Unbalanced Line:
An offensive formation where more players are lined up on one side of the center than the other.


Unnecessary Roughness:
An illegal play where a player, in the judgement of the officials, uses tactics that are above and beyond what is neccesary to block or tackle another player.

Unnecessary roughness is a personal foul and results in a 15-yard penalty against the offending team.


Unsportsmanlike Conduct:
A dead-ball foul in which a player, in the judgement of the officials, taunts or otherwise acts in an unsportsmanlike manner.

Unsportsmanlike conduct is a personal foul and results in a 15-yard penalty against the offending team.


Uprights:
The vertical posts above the crossbar on the goalpost.

A field goal must go between the uprights to be successful.

V
Veer:
A quick-hitting run in which the ball is handed to a running back whose routes are determined by the slant of the defensive linemen.


Vince Lombardi Trophy:
The trophy awarded to each year's winner of the Super Bowl.

The Vince Lombardi Trophy is awarded in honor of hall of fame head coach Vince Lombardi.

W
Weak Side:
The side of the offense opposite the side on which the tight end lines up.


Wideout:
An offensive player who lines up on or near the line of scrimmage, but split to the outside. His primary job is to catch passes from the quarterback.


Wide Receiver:
An offensive player who lines up on or near the line of scrimmage, but split to the outside. His primary job is to catch passes from the quarterback.


Wild Card:
The two playoff berths given in each conference to the two non-division winning teams that have the best record in the conference.

A team that makes the playoffs as a wild card does not get a bye in the first round of the playoffs.


Wing Back:
A running back used in a wing formation.


Winning Percentage:
The percentage of games a team has won over a specific period of time or under certain circumstances.

Winning percentage = wins + (ties/2) divided by number of games played


Wishbone Formation:
An offensive formation that features a fullback and two halfbacks in the backfield.

In the wishbone formation, the fullback lines up directly behind the quarterback and the halbacks line up behind him with one to each side.

X
Xs & Os:
Refers to diagrams of plays on paper, chalkboard, or computer.

Coaches usually use Xs and Os to differentiate between the defensive and offensive players in a diagram.

Y
Yardage:
The amount of yards gained or lost during a play, game, season, or career.

Yardage is determined by how far the ball is advanced from the line of scrimmage, not from the point where the ball carrier receives the ball.

Z
Zone Defense:
Coverage in which the secondary and linebackers drop away from the line of scrimmage into specific areas (zones) when defending a pass play.

In a zone defense, each player on the defense is responsible for a certain area of the field.