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NFL Football Penalties By Category

Below is a list of NFL football penalties by category and their results of what happens when they are called during a game.


5 Yard NFL Penalties

PenaltyDefinitionResult
Defensive HoldingWhen a defensive player holds onto an opposing player by their uniform rather than only push blocking, preventing them from moving in a certain direction.5 Yards
Defensive OffsideWhen a defensive player is over the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap.5 Yards
Delay Of GameCalled on a team when a play is not started after a set amount of time has passed, usually when the play clock expires.5 Yards
Delay Of KickoffWhen a team commits a delay of game penalty during a kickoff.5 Yards
EncroachmentWhen a defensive player illegally crosses the line of scrimmage before the snap and makes contact with an opposing player or has a clear path to the quarterback.5 Yards
Excess TimeoutsWhen one or multiple players have prolonged or excessive celebrations.5 Yards, 15 Yards
False StartWhen an offensive player begins moving before the ball is snapped.5 Yards
Illegal ContactWhen a player makes contact with an opposing player when they are not allowed to contact at that time.5 yards, Automatic 1st Down
Illegal FormationWhen players are lined up in an illegal formation at the time of the snap.5 Yards
Illegal Forward HandoffWhen a forward handoff occurs following a forward pass.5 Yards
Illegal Forward PassWhen a second forward pass occurs following a forward pass, or when the passer is beyond the line of scrimmage at the time of the throw.5 Yards, Loss of Down
Illegal Kick And Kicking Loose BallWhen a player kicks the ball when it is loose or a player kicks the ball when they are not allowed to make contact with the ball.5 Yards
Illegal MotionWhen a player moves or shifts before the ball is snapped in an illegal way.5 Yards
Illegal ShiftWhen a player shifts illegally before the ball is snapped. This is similar to an illegal formation.5 Yards
Illegal SnapWhen a snap is done incorrectly (doesn't start on the ground, is not one continuous motion, is snapped before the officials are in position, or is snapped to an ineligible receiver)5 Yards
Illegal SubstitutionWhen a player is substituted into the game while play is live or interferes with the game.5 Yards
Illegal Touching of a Forward PassWhen the ball is touched illegally after a forward pass. Only eligible receivers can touch a forward pass before any other member of the offense.5 Yards
Illegal Use Of HandsWhen a player's hands make contact with an opposing player's face-area forcefully during an attempt to make or get around a block.10 Yards (Offense), 5 Yards and Automatic 1st Down (Defense)
Ineligible Downfield KickWhen a player other than the two players at the end of the line of scrimmage crosses the line of scrimmage prior to the kick/punt.5 Yards
Ineligible Downfield PassWhen a forward pass is completed to an ineligible downfield receiver. An ineligible downfield receiver is any player who did not line up off of the line of scrimmage, such as the offensive guards and tackles.5 Yards
Invalid Fair Catch SignalWhen a player calling a fair catch does not correctly make the fair catch signal.5 Yards
Neutral Zone InfractionWhen a defensive player illegally enters the neutral zone around the line of scrimmage prior to the snap.5 Yards
Offensive OffsideWhen an offensive player illegally crosses the neutral zone around the line of scrimmage prior to the snap.5 Yards
Offside On Free KickWhen a player is offside during a free kick or kickoff.5 Yards
Pass InterferenceWhen a player hinders another player from catching the ball.10 Yards (Offense), 5 Yards Automatic 1st Down (Defense)
Player Out Of Bounds On KickWhen a player illegally re-enters the playing field after stepping out of bounds on the kickoff.5 Yards
Running Into The KickerWhen a player makes contact with the kicker's plant leg on a kick or punt. Similar to roughing the kicker.5 Yards
Sideline InfractionWhen a player or coach steps out of the restricted area or across the sideline during a game.5 Yards (2nd Time), 15 Yards (3rd Time)
Too Many Men On FieldWhen the team on offense or defense has more than the allowed 11 (12 in the CFL) men on the field.5 Yards

10 Yard NFL Penalties

PenaltyDefinitionResult
Assisting The RunnerPulling or pushing a runner in a certain direction.10 Yards
Illegal BatWhen a player purposely swats the ball when it is loose in any direction out of the end zone.10 Yards
Illegal Block Above The WaistWhen a player blocks an opposing player, who does not have the ball, from behind and above the waist.10 Yards
Illegal Block In The BackWhen a player blocks an opponent in the back above the waist, or pushes their opponent to move them while not in close-line play.10 yards
Illegal Use Of HandsWhen a player's hands make contact with an opposing player's face-area forcefully during an attempt to make or get around a block.10 Yards (Offense), 5 Yards and Automatic 1st Down (Defense)
Intentional GroundingWhen the passer intentionally throws the ball incomplete while under pressure from the defense in order to avoid a sack.10 Yards, Loss of Down
Offensive HoldingWhen an offensive player holds a defensive player illegally. Holding occurs when a player grabs an opposing player by the jersey of the uniform to prevent them from moving in a certain direction.10 Yards
Offensive Pass InterferenceWhen an offensive player performs an illegal action against a defensive player to prevent a pass from being defended properly, such as pushing the player.10 Yards
Pass InterferenceWhen a player hinders another player from catching the ball.10 Yards (Offense), 5 Yards Automatic 1st Down (Defense)
TrippingWhen a player purposely trips an opposing player.10 Yards, Automatic 1st Down

15 Yard NFL Penalties

PenaltyDefinitionResult
Blocking a Kicking Team Player Out of BoundsWhen a receiving player blocks a kick from out of bounds.15 Yards
Chop BlockWhen two players block the same defensive player one above and below the thigh.15 Yards
ClippingWhen a player blocks or falls into an opposing player from behind below the knees.15 Yards
Defenseless PlayerWhen a player makes unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless position.15 Yards
Disconcerting Acts or SignalsUsing words to disconcert the offensive team during the snap.15 Yards
DisqualificationWhen a player's actions result in that player being removed from the game15 Yards
Excessive CelebrationWhen a team calls an excess team timeout or calls two timeouts in the same dead ball period.15 Yards
Excess TimeoutsWhen one or multiple players have prolonged or excessive celebrations.5 Yards, 15 Yards
FacemaskWhen a player grabs an opposing player by the facemask.15 Yards
Fair Catch InterferenceWhen a player on the kicking team touches an opposing return player who has called a fair catch on the ball or if the ball is touched before being caught by the player who called for a fair catch.Loss of Ball, 15 Yards
Forcibly Contacting a Player Out of BoundsWhen a player hits the runner forcibly once they are out of bounds.15 Yards
GoaltendingWhen a player jumps to deflect a kicked ball as it goes over the crossbar.15 Yards
Horse CollarWhen a player grabs an opposing player from behind by the back collar of the uniform, under the padding, and pulls the player straight down off of their feet.15 Yards
Illegal Blindside BlockWhen a player blocks an opposing player while that player is unable to see the incoming blocker, and thus being defenseless.15 Yards
Illegal Block After Fair Catch SignalWhen the receiving team blocks a player of the kicking team before the ball is touched on a fair catch.15 Yards
Illegal Block Below the WaistWhen a player blocks another player below their waist during a kick or change of possession.15 yards
Illegal CrackbackWhen a player runs laterally across the field and blocks a defenseless player below the waist.15 Yards
Illegal Cut BlockWhen a player blocks an opposing player by diving into their knees from the front.15 Yards
Illegal Double Team BlockWhen two or more players who were not lined up together on the set-up line block an opponent at the same time.15 Yards
Illegal Peel BackWhen a player blocks an opposing player from the side and below the waist.15 Yards
Illegal WedgeWhen two or more players line up shoulder to shoulder less than two yards apart to perform a block.15 Yards
Kick Catch InterferenceWhen a player makes contact with an opposing player who is receiving a kick before the ball becomes live.15 Yards
LeapingWhen a player jumps over the line of scrimmage in an attempt to tackle a player or block a kick and they make contact with a player on the opposing team prior or simultaneously as the snap.15 Yards, Automatic 1st down
LeverageWhen a player gets a boost over the line of scrimmage in an attempt to tackle a player or block a kick and they make contact with a player on the opposing team prior or simultaneously as the snap.15 Yards
Low BlockWhen a player performs an illegal block that is below the waist of a player on the opposing team.15 Yards
Removal of the HelmetWhen a player removes their helmet during a celebration or confrontation.15 Yards
Roughing the HolderIf a defensive player comes into forcible contact with the holder.15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down
Roughing The KickerWhen a player makes contact with the kicker's plant leg on a kick or punt.15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down
Roughing The PasserWhen a defensive player makes harsh contact with the passer after the ball has been released for an allotted time.15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down
Sideline InfractionWhen a player or coach steps out of the restricted area or across the sideline during a game.5 Yards (2nd Time), 15 Yards (3rd Time)
Striking, Kicking, or Kneeing an OpponentWhen a player strikes, kicks, or knees an opponent.15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down
TauntingWhen a player taunts the opposing team or an opposing player.15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down
Unnecessary Physical Contact With Game OfficialWhen rough contact is made towards an official.15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down
Unnecessary RoughnessWhen rough contact is made towards an opposing player when deemed unnecessary.15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down
Unsportsmanlike ConductWhen a player violates the rule of general sportsmanship.15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down
Use Of HelmetWhen a player lowers their helmet to make contact with an opposing player.15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down

Automatic First Down NFL Penalties

PenaltyDefinitionResult
Illegal ContactWhen a player makes contact with an opposing player when they are not allowed to contact at that time.5 yards, Automatic 1st Down
Illegal Use Of HandsWhen a player's hands make contact with an opposing player's face-area forcefully during an attempt to make or get around a block.10 Yards (Offense), 5 Yards and Automatic 1st Down (Defense)
LeapingWhen a player jumps over the line of scrimmage in an attempt to tackle a player or block a kick and they make contact with a player on the opposing team prior or simultaneously as the snap.15 Yards, Automatic 1st down
Pass InterferenceWhen a player hinders another player from catching the ball.10 Yards (Offense), 5 Yards Automatic 1st Down (Defense)
Roughing the HolderIf a defensive player comes into forcible contact with the holder.15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down
Roughing The KickerWhen a player makes contact with the kicker's plant leg on a kick or punt.15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down
Roughing The PasserWhen a defensive player makes harsh contact with the passer after the ball has been released for an allotted time.15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down
Striking, Kicking, or Kneeing an OpponentWhen a player strikes, kicks, or knees an opponent.15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down
TauntingWhen a player taunts the opposing team or an opposing player.15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down
TrippingWhen a player purposely trips an opposing player.10 Yards, Automatic 1st Down
Unnecessary Physical Contact With Game OfficialWhen rough contact is made towards an official.15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down
Unnecessary RoughnessWhen rough contact is made towards an opposing player when deemed unnecessary.15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down
Unsportsmanlike ConductWhen a player violates the rule of general sportsmanship.15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down
Use Of HelmetWhen a player lowers their helmet to make contact with an opposing player.15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down

Loss of Down NFL Penalties

PenaltyDefinitionResult
Illegal Forward PassWhen a second forward pass occurs following a forward pass, or when the passer is beyond the line of scrimmage at the time of the throw.5 Yards, Loss of Down
Intentional GroundingWhen the passer intentionally throws the ball incomplete while under pressure from the defense in order to avoid a sack.10 Yards, Loss of Down

Loss of Ball NFL Penalties

PenaltyDefinitionResult
Fair Catch InterferenceWhen a player on the kicking team touches an opposing return player who has called a fair catch on the ball or if the ball is touched before being caught by the player who called for a fair catch.Loss of Ball, 15 Yards

Spot of The Foul NFL Penalties

PenaltyDefinitionResult
Defensive Pass InterferenceWhen a defensive player disrupts an opposing player's attempt to catch a pass.Spot of the Foul
Illegal Touching of a KickWhen an illegal touch of the ball occurs after a kick.Spot of the Foul

Suspension / Fine NFL Penalties

PenaltyDefinitionResult
Equipment ViolationWhen a player wears prohibited equipment or does not wear required equipment.Suspension, Fine
Palpably Unfair ActAn illegal action that referees deem to have deprived a team from scoring.Suspension, Fine