Football Too Many Men On Field Penalty

Football Too Many Men On Field Penalty

Too many men on the field are enforced when one team has more than eleven players on the field. Having more than eleven players would give one team an unfair advantage and therefore is not allowed. The result is a five yard penalty assessed against whichever team committed the penalty.


This penalty can be called on both the defense and the offense, however, the penalties are called differently. The offensive penalty is known as too many men in the huddle and is called if the offense has 12 players in the huddle for over 3 seconds. This rule is in place because otherwise the offense could change their personnel prior to the snap, creating an unfair advantage for the offense as the defense has no time to react to the offense's personnel. For example, if an offense sends both a wide receiver and tight end into the huddle, making a huddle of 12 players, the offense then can decide whether to run or pass depending on the personnel the defense has on the field, and send whichever player they do not need off the field at the last second. This would leave the defense with no time to react or plan for the offense team's personnel. This penalty would be called prior to snap because the play must stop before the snap due to the unfair average the defense has.

The penalty can also be enforced on the defense, however, unlike for the offensive penalty, the play will not be called dead. If at the time of the snap the defense has more than 11 players on the field, a flag will be thrown, but the play will continue on because the offense deserves a chance to complete a play that would be more beneficial than just the 5 yard penalty. For example, if the defense has 12 men on the field when the offense snaps the ball, but during the play the offense actually completes a pass for a touchdown, they can decline the penalty and that touchdown will stand.


At all levels of play and leagues within the United States, the penalty for too many men on the field is 5 yards, however, in the Canadian Football League (CFL) the penalty is increased to 10 yards.

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Penalty Signal

football penalty signal too many men on field

In order to make the signal for too many men on the field or too many men in the huddle, the referee will place both his hands flat on the top of his head.


  • The defensive team has 12 players on the field when the offensive team snaps the ball.
  • The offensive team stays in the huddle with 12 players for 3-5 seconds.

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