Are you curious about what offsides means in the NFL and the penalties associated with it? You’ve come to the right place!

We’ll explain the definition of offsides, the rules and regulations, on-field signals, and the penalties for infractions.

Plus, get tips on preventing offsides infractions.

Stay tuned to find out more!

Definition of Offsides

Offsides occurs when a player is positioned beyond the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped, and is a violation of the NFL rules. This means that if any offensive player is ahead of the line of scrimmage at the time the ball is snapped, it’s considered an offsides penalty.

The same is true for defensive players, as they must remain behind the line of scrimmage until the ball is snapped. If either side is offsides, it results in a five-yard penalty for the offending team.

Offsides is a common penalty in football, as teams often try to gain an advantage by jumping the snap.

Rules and Regulations

In addition to knowing when offsides is called, you also need to understand the rules and regulations that surround it.

In the NFL, a player is called offsides when they enter the neutral zone before the ball is snapped. If a player is called offsides, they’ll be charged with a five-yard penalty, and the team will have to repeat the down.

This penalty can also be enforced if a player is lined up in the neutral zone and then moves forward before the ball is snapped.

The number of players who can be offsides on a given play can also be called into question, as more than one player can be offsides on a single play. The penalty will still be enforced, but the NFL will review the play to decide if the defense was attempting to gain an unfair advantage.

On-Field Signals

When it comes to offsides, you may have noticed that the referee will make a specific signal on the field when it occurs. The signal is used to alert the players that an offside penalty has been committed. It’s important for players to be aware of this signal, as it can result in a penalty for the offending team.

Here is a quick overview of the offside signal:

  1. The referee will raise their arms in the air and signal in a pushing motion.
  2. They’ll also blow the whistle to indicate the call.
  3. The referee will then point in the direction towards the offending team.

If an offside penalty is called, the offending team will be penalized five yards and the down will be replayed. It’s important to be aware of the offside signal so that you can avoid committing this penalty and keep the game moving.

Knowing the offside signal can help you stay one step ahead of the competition and prevent you from making a costly mistake.

Penalties for Offsides

If you commit an offsides penalty in the NFL, you’ll face a five-yard penalty and the down will be replayed. As with any penalty, this can be costly, as it can put the team in a worse position than before the infraction.

The offsides penalty is called when a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped. This is intended to prevent the defense from gaining an unfair advantage by rushing the offense before they’re ready.

The penalty is a five-yard penalty, plus a loss of down, meaning the down will have to be replayed. If the defense is offsides again on the same play, the penalty is 10 yards and an automatic first down.

In some cases, the offsides penalty can even result in an ejection from the game. Offsides penalties can be avoided by a team if they pay attention to the timing of the snap and the position of the defensive players.

Preventing Offsides Infractions

Your team’s ability to prevent offsides infractions can make a significant difference in the outcome of the game.

To do this, players need to be aware of the following:

  1. The line of scrimmage: All players must be on the correct side of the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped.

  2. Pre-snap motion: It’s illegal to be in motion at the time of the snap.

  3. Delay of game: False starts and delays of game can lead to offsides.

Players must remain alert and in position at all times to avoid offsides penalties. Coaches should also ensure that players are properly positioned and ready at the start of each play.

Taking the time to review and practice these rules will help players and teams understand and avoid offsides infractions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Difference Between Offsides and Encroachment?

Offsides happens when a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped. Encroachment is when any player crosses the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped. Both result in a penalty for the offending team.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Offsides Rule?

Yes, there are a few exceptions to the offsides rule. For instance, if a defensive player lines up in the neutral zone before the snap, but does not make contact with an offensive player, they will not be called for offsides. Additionally, if the snap is fumbled, no offsides penalty will be called.

How Can Teams Use Offsides to Their Advantage?

By timing their snap count correctly, teams can draw defenders offside, giving them a free play. This can be used to catch opponents off guard and gain a strategic advantage.

Are There Any Advantages to Being Offsides?

Yes, there are advantages to being offsides. It can draw an offensive player offside, allowing defensive players to stop a play before it starts. It can also create confusion, giving the defensive team time to adjust their strategy.

How Do Referees Determine if a Player Is Offsides?

You can tell if a player is offsides by watching the line of scrimmage. If any part of their body is beyond the line when the ball is snapped, they’re offsides. Referees will look for this and blow their whistle if they see it.


Offsides is a common penalty in the NFL. It’s important to know and understand the rules and regulations surrounding it. On-field signals can help you recognize when an offsides has occurred. The penalty for an infraction can vary. By familiarizing yourself with the rules of the game, you can help reduce the likelihood of an offsides penalty and have a better understanding of the game.