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Football Ineligible Receiver Downfield Penalty

Football Ineligible Receiver Downfield Penalty

Passing is becoming more popular and has played an important role in the evolution of football. However, there are important rules when passing. Learn about the ineligible receiver downfield penalty here.


Table of Contents



A receiver is ineligible if:

  • They are wearing numbers 50-79, unless they have communicated a change in their eligibility status to the referee and have taken a position on their line or in their backfield that would make them eligible to catch a pass.
  • Any player not on either end on their line or at least one yard behind the line of scrimmage during the snap.

If an ineligible receiver goes down field, the referee will throw the penalty at the time the ineligible receiver goes down field. The offending team will then be assessed a five-yard penalty and replay the down.

Any receiver at the end of the line of scrimmage should confirm with the referee that they are on or off the line of scrimmage before the start of the play. Receivers should make sure that they are not covering anyone else who is supposed to be on the line of scrimmage, meaning that if a tight end is on their side of the line then they should be aligned off the line of scrimmage.



Ineligible Receiver DownfieldFive yard penalty, Replay of down. Five yard penalty, Replay of down.Five yard penalty, Replay of down.10-yard penalty.Five yard penalty, Replay of down.

The result of an ineligible receiver downfield will issue the offending team a five-yard penalty and a replay of down.

In the NFL, offensive lineman are only allowed to go one-yard downfield when blocking on a pass play. In college, they are allowed to go three-yards down field. The more the offensive line can go downfield, the more it tricks the defense on play action and run-pass-option plays. In the CFL, the receivers do not have to come to a complete stop before the ball is snapped.

The Arena Football League rules are the same as the college football rules, but the ball can be caught if it is deflected off the back netting or the walls.


Penalty Signal

football penalty signal ineligible receiver

To indicate this penalty, the referee will throw a flag at the beginning of the play. After the play, the referee will announce and signal that there was an ineligible receiver downfield by touching the top of their head.

Players should always check with the referee that they are on or off the line of scrimmage or notify the referee of their position with the line of scrimmage and their eligibility as a receiver.



  • If a receiver is covering up a tight end and the tight end goes down field, the tight end is an ineligible receiver.
  • Any offensive lineman that goes downfield is an ineligible receiver.
  • Any player who fails to notify the referee when they are required to in order to be eligible.

Similar Penalties To Ineligible Receiver Downfield


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