An excess timeouts penalty acts as a "fourth timeout" for teams, and is called only when an injury timeout is needed, but the team has already called all three of their timeouts. This is a penalty because teams are not allowed to use more than three timeouts in a half, but it is a rather soft penalty because injuries occur often in football.
An excess timeout penalty in football is one of the more rare penalties to see called in a game, but is a big deal when it comes into play. This penalty essentially works as an injury timeout, but is assessed to a team when they have already used all three of their timeouts, and cannot stop the clock to tend to an injured player. This penalty would not be called on plays that included incomplete passes, changes of possession, the end of a quarter, or a run out of bounds. This is because on all of these plays, the clock automatically stops in the NFL, so there is no need for a timeout.
While the penalty does grant extra injury timeouts, it is not a way to fake an injury to stop the clock late in the game. This penalty can not be abused because after a teams' first excess timeout, inside of the two minute warning each of their following excess timeouts (if called) will result in a five yard penalty on the offending team.
|Excess Timeouts||1st offense: 10 second runoff2nd offense and every offense after: 5 yard penalty||10 second runoff||Officials timeout, play clock reset to 40 seconds||Injured player must leave game for three plays||1st offense: 10 second runoff2nd offense and every offense after: 5 yard penalty|
In the NFL, the teams' first offense only results in a ten second runoff of the game clock. If the offending team is on offense, it will automatically be applied, but if the offenders are on defense, the offense has the choice to decline the runoff. After the first excess timeout, each following excess timeout that is called inside of the two minute warning will result in a 5-yard penalty.
In NCAA Football, the penalty is a ten second runoff each time it is called, and is called with less than one minute left in each half. In high school football, the officials use an officials timeout to stop the game and the play clock is reset to 40 seconds.
In the CFL, the injured player must leave the game for three plays. The AFL does not allow any additional timeouts after the original three and injured players must leave the game, but referees can still enforce injury timeouts when necessary inside of two minutes.
When a referee calls an excess timeout penalty, they will first explain what the penalty is being called and the result of it, then simply signal for a timeout as they would for any timeout. Although it is a penalty, the end result of it is an injury timeout, so timeout must be called by the referee.