Football Offensive Offside Penalty

Football Offensive Offside Penalty

Offensive offside is a penalty within the sport of football and is more commonly referred to as a false start. It is the most commonly called penalty within the sport and is illegal because it gives offensive players a head start and advantage over the defense. The penalty will always result in a five yard penalty against the offense and the down will be replayed.


An offside penalty is called when a player on the offense crosses the line of scrimmage or moves prior to the snap. Any movement across the line of scrimmage including any minor flinches or movement prior the snap would constitute an offside penalty. In turn, the offensive players are not able to line up in the neutral zone, which would also be an infraction under the offensive offside penalty. This would give the offensive players time to fire out before the defense which is unfair. The penalty can be called on any play, including special teams such as during field goal attempts or kick offs.

Unlike defensive offside which will not result in a dead play, referees will always call play the dead if there is a false start. The penalty will automatically be enforced against the offense and the down will be replayed.

The primary reason that false starts or offensive offside occur is simply miscommunication among the players. A player may not understand the signal made by the quarterback, or simply the noise in the stadium coming from the fans might be too loud and drown out the quarterback's signaling. The biggest example of this within the NFL is at the Seattle Seahawks's stadium Lumen Field which is famous for its extremely loud and passionate fan base.


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At all levels of play, offensive offsides will always result in a five yard penalty assessed against the offense and the down will be replayed after backing up the offense.

Penalty Signal

football penalty signal offensive offside

In order to make the offensive offsides signal, the referee will put both arms horizontal at chest level with their hands in fist. The referee then will rotate their firsts around each other in a circular motion.


  • An offensive lineman flinches after getting set at the line of scrimmage and prior to the ball being snapped.
  • An offensive player lines up inside the neutral zone prior to the ball being snapped.
  • A player on the kick off team crosses the line of scrimmage before the kicker kicks off the ball.