Football Offensive Pass Interference Penalty

Football Offensive Pass Interference Penalty

Offensive pass interference occurs when a receiving player makes contact with a defender, not allowing them to fairly defend the incoming pass. This contact gives the receiver an advantage over the defender because the defender does not have an equal chance to play the ball. Illegal pick plays are also prohibited under offensive pass interference rules. Offensive pass interference will cost your team a total of 10 yards.


Offensive pass interference is called when a receiver more than one yard down the field affects a defender’s opportunity to make a play on the football. To be called for offensive pass interference, the receiver must physically engage with the defender in order to gain an advantage.

A penalty will not be called when both the receiver and defender are mutually engaging with each other. This is because one player does not have a clear advantage in catching the ball. Such contact will likely be judged incidental and will not incur a foul.

Another form of offensive pass interference is an illegal pick, which occurs when an offensive player either runs into or cuts in front of a defender without playing the ball.

Offensive pass interference is called much less frequently than defensive pass interference. On average, defensive pass interference is called one time during each NFL game, while offensive pass interference is only called once every three games.

Pass Interference Rule

Offensive pass interference rules apply as soon as the ball is snapped and are in effect until the ball is caught by a receiver. Receivers and defenders are required to allow each other to fairly make a play on a thrown ball. Like defensive pass interference, there are several prohibited acts that will always be flagged for offensive pass interference. Grabbing a defender’s arm, extending an arm across their body, hooking their body, playing through their back, shoving off of them, and cutting off their path without playing the ball are all actions classified as offensive pass interference.

Incidental contact of hands and feet, including placing a hand on a defender without affecting their ability to move, is legal between a receiver and a defender and will not be flagged for pass interference.


Offensive pass interference results in a 10-yard penalty in the NFL and CFL and a 15-yard penalty in college and high school play. The yardage will be enforced from the previous line of scrimmage, and the down will be replayed. The defense can choose to decline this penalty, usually when the play that the penalty occurred on resulted in an advantage for the defense, such as in an interception or fumble recovery.

PenaltyNFLNCAAHigh SchoolCFL
Offensive Pass Interference10 Yards15 Yards15 Yards10 Yards

Penalty Signal

football Penalty Signal

The signal for offensive pass interference is achieved by the referee by extending both arms out in front, with their hands facing upwards. This is the same signal for defensive pass interference. In order to tell the difference between offensive and defensive pass interference, the referee will also signal with one arm toward the offending team’s end zone.


  • Grabbing the arm of the defender so that they cannot attempt to catch the football.
  • Creating contact with the defender by pushing or extending the arm into their body, forcing separation.
  • Hooking the opponent with the intent to not let them catch the ball.

Similar Penalties To Offensive Pass Interference


What is offensive pass interference in football?

Offensive pass interference is a penalty in football in which a receiving player contacts a defender in such a way that they cannot fairly defend the incoming pass. There are a number of ways players can commit offensive pass interference, including by grabbing a defender’s arm or pushing off of a defender to divert them away from a ball. In the NFL and CFL, offensive pass interference results in a loss of 10 yards and a replay of the down, while in the NCAA and high school football, the yardage lost is 15 yards.

Do you lose a down for offensive pass interference?

Incurring an offensive pass interference penalty does not result in a loss of down for the offense. While defensive pass interference results in a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down for the offense, offensive pass interference only carries a 10-yard penalty in the NFL and results in a replay of the same down. In college and high school football, the down is also replayed, but the penalty for offensive pass interference is 15 yards.    

Can you challenge an offensive pass interference call?

The NFL does not allow any pass interference calls to be challenged by coaches. Prior to the 2019-2020 season, pass interference was not challengeable, but the NFL briefly changed this rule to allow pass interference challenges for the 2019-2020 season as a result of an infamous missed call of defensive pass interference, which occurred during the 2019 NFC Championship Game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints. However, the change was not deemed to have many benefits after one year, and in 2020, the NFL once again removed the ability to challenge pass interference calls. The CFL has permitted challenges to pass interference calls since 2014.

What does PI mean in football?

PI is an abbreviation for pass interference in football. Pass interference is a foul that is penalized by a loss of yardage. Pass interference can be committed by the offense or the defense by preventing another player from fairly playing a thrown ball. Offensive pass interference is abbreviated as OPI, while defensive pass interference is shortened to DPI.