Football Play Clock

Chapter 2.6

The play clock is one of two clocks in football. It keeps track of time in between plays, showing how quickly players need to get onto the field.


In football, all clocks count towards zero. This adds a layer of pressure and suspense for players and fans. There are two clocks you should know:

Rookie Road Football Clocks Image

The Play Clock

The play clock keeps the pace of the game by timing the breaks in between scrimmage downs.

Rookie Road Football Play Clock Image

It either lasts forty (40) seconds or twenty-five (25) seconds depending on what happened in the previous scrimmage down. We'll learn more about scrimmage downs in future chapters.

Scrimmage Downs

When a football team has the ball, it is given four (4) scrimmage downs to move the ball on the football field.

Rookie Road Football Scrimmage Down Image

The play clock gets players onto the field to play the next scrimmage down within 40-seconds of 25-seconds.

The 40-second Play Clock

Usually, the play clock lasts 40-seconds. Players have 40 seconds to get onto the field of play and begin the scrimmage down. If they don't make it in time, they are assessed a penalty called delay of game.

The 25-second Play Clock

The play clock is sometimes shortened 25-seconds if one of the following occurs in the previous scrimmage down:

PRO TIP: The play clock didn't always exist. It was created to reduce the time in between scrimmage downs to make football games move faster and take less time to complete.

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