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Understanding EFLI better - 10 signs to help you get into American Football - Part 2

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2.53K   //    21 Apr 2014, 17:20 IST

We are back again with our second installment of learning the referee signals in American Football. After learning the various facets of game and how their occurrence is conveyed via signals by the referee in the first part, it’s time to move on to a new segment. In this article we will get an in – depth look at the foul calls (of the physical natural) to try and help you understand the game of American Football better.

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American football is one of the physically grueling and demanding games in the world. Hence, the governing body takes good care to install rules that put the players in the safest environment possible while letting the game become on also of skill combined with brute physical prowess. Here are the rules that make them happen:

Penalties and Personal Fouls

One wrist striking the other above head

One wrist striking the other above head

In American football, a personal foul is called when any of the players violate the rules of the game. A penalty is sanctioned for such by the officials.The initial signalling of a foul is done by tossing a bright yellow (American Football) coloured “penalty flag” onto the field. These fouls mostly result in moving the football toward the end zone of the team committing the foul, usually by either 5, 10, or 15 yards, depending on the penalty. In some cases the ball is even moved half the distance to the goal or to where the infringement occurred.

Let’s look at some of the common personal foul calls in American football and how they are signalled by the referee:

1. Roughing the Kicker

If the personal foul signal is followed by a swing leg, it means that “Roughing the kicker” has been called.

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A player of the defensive team, having missed an attempt to block a kick, tackles the kicker or otherwise runs into the kicker in a way that might injure the kicker or his vulnerable extended kicking leg, is said to have committed a foul called “roughing the kicker”. This protection is also extended to the holder of a place kick. This results in a 15 yard penalty and an automatic first down.

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2. Roughing the Passer

If the personal foul signal is followed by a raised arm swinging forward:, it means that “Roughing the Passer” has been called.

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If a defender continues in his efforts to tackle or “hits” a passer after the passer has already thrown a pass, the defender is called for a “roughing the passer” offense. In the NFL, a defender is allowed to take only one step after the ball is thrown. Roughing the passer is also called if the passer is hit above the shoulders, or if the passer is targeted using the crown of the defender’s helmet. This results in 15 yards and an automatic first down.

3. Major Facemask

If the personal foul signal is followed by grasping facemask, it means that “Major Facemask” has been called.

Sign14

If any player intentionally grasps the face mask of another player in an attempt to block or tackle him, he is penalized. In the NFL, the grasping and pulling/twisting must be intentional for it to be considered a personal foul. It results in 15 yardspenalty and an automatic first down. 

4. Holding

Grasping one wrist, the fist clenched, in front of chest

Grasping one wrist, the fist clenched, in front of chest

In American football, holding is one of the most common penalties. A foul is assessed for holding when a player grabs an opponent in order to gain an advantage. Holding can be called on either the offense or the defense.

Penalties for holding are as follows:

  • Offensive holding results in loss of ten yards from the previous line of scrimmage and the down is replayed.
  • Defensive holding results inthe offense gaining five yards from the previous line of scrimmage, and an automatic first down.

5. Horse-Collar Tackle

 Sign16

Horse-collar tackle is a tackling manoeuvre that has been outlawed very recently (in 2005)in the game after causing a number of serious injuries. It’s a football tackle where the tackling player grabs the opening of the jersey and/or shoulder pads on a player’s back and pulls them to the ground.  Such tackles are penalizeda 15 yard personal foul penalty.

6. Illegal Contact

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One open hand extended forward

Also referred to as “Illegal Touching”, the call for “Illegal Contact” is called when a defensive player tries to interfere with an offensive receiving player physically more than 5 yards from the line of scrimmage.  The result of such a penalty is 5 yards with an added automatic first down in favour the offense.

7. Pass Interference

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Hands open and extended forward from shoulders with hands vertical

The “pass interference” penalty is called when a player is judged to have impeded another player’s (from the opposing team) ability to catch a downfield pass prior to the ball’s arrival. Pass interference can be called on either the offense or the defense, although it is more commonly called on the defense.

The penalties for pass interference are as follows:

  • On defensive pass interference, the offense is awarded a first down at the spot of the foul.
  • On offensive pass interference, the offense loses ten yards and made to replay the down.

Pass interference is called only if the officials judge that the player was in a reasonable position to make a play on the ball.  Also once a forward pass is tipped or deflected (for example at the line of scrimmage by a defensive linesman); pass interference is no longer a foul.

8. Illegal Cut

Hand Striking front of thigh

Hand Striking front of thigh

In American football, cut blocking is an offensive line technique that consists of an offensive player knocking a defensive player down by hitting his knees.

That’s about it when it comes to signals regarding penalties for physical plays in the game. We will be back with more in our next segment. 

9. Illegal Block below the Waist

One hand striking front of thigh preceded by personal-foul signal

One hand striking front of thigh preceded by personal-foul signal

It’s a penalty given when any player from any direction tries to block while hitting below the waist after change of possession.

Results in a loss 15 yards; automatic first down if committed by the defense

10. Chop Block

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Both hands striking side of thighs preceded by personal-foul signal

A chop block foul is called mostly on the offense. When an offensive player tries to cut block a defensive player that is already being blocked by another offensive player, the second block must be below the thigh or knee. If not so, a chop block foul is called for.

The penalty for a chop block is 15 yards (if it is in the end zone the play will be ruled a safety); automatic first down if committed by defense.

11. Clipping

One hand striking back of calf preceded by personal-foul signal

One hand striking back of calf preceded by personal-foul signal

A team is penalized for clipping when a blocker contacting a non-ballcarrying opponent from behind hits him at or below the waist.

The penalty for a clip is 15 yards; automatic first down if committed by defense.

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