Football Offside Penalty

Football Offside Penalty

Defensive players are responsible for pressuring the quarterback, but they have to wait for the quarterback to snap the ball before they can do so. Sometimes, defensive players will cross the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped. This is called being offside and will cause a five-yard penalty to be assessed to the defense.


The offside penalty in football is when a player moves across the line of scrimmage before the quarterback snaps the football. This foul can be committed by either team, but it is typically called on the defense. A quarterback will sometimes use a hard count, which is a way to try and get the defense to jump into the neutral zone, resulting in an offside penalty. This is a pre-snap penalty, so most of the time, the play is blown dead before it happens, and a five yard-penalty will be awarded.

If the defensive player who jumped offside is not an imposing threat on the quarterback, the play continues, and this is called a “free play.” This is allowed because, regardless of the result, the offense will get at least five yards from the penalty. This can also be committed by the offense, but it is a lot less common. Offside is only called on the offense when an offensive player is lined up in the neutral zone. A more common pre-snap penalty for the offense is a false start.


PenaltyNFLNCAAHigh SchoolCFL
Offside5 yards5 yards5 yards5 yards

Offside is a pre-snap penalty that is minor and normally a result of the quarterback drawing a defensive player offside or a defensive player getting antsy behind the line and jumping to rush the quarterback.

When a player jumps or is lined up offside in any football league, the referee will award the offensive team five yards, and the down will be replayed. This penalty will only result in a first down if there were less than five yards to gain during that play. For example, if it was a 1st and 10, the team would replay the down and have 1st and 5. If it was 2nd and 3 though, the team would be awarded the first down because there were only three yards to gain to get the first down. The next play, in this instance, would result in a 1st and 10.

Penalty Signal

To signal an offside penalty, the referee will put both hands on their hips and announce both the offending player and the loss of yardage. This is a very basic penalty and is clear-cut for the officials to determine.


  • When a defensive player gets lined up on the offensive team's side, the defensive player is offside. The referee will throw the flag and the player will be called offside.
  • When a defensive player jumps over the line of scrimmage, causing an offensive player to flinch, but without making contact with the offensive player, the referee will throw the flag for defensive offside.
  • When an offensive player is lined up over the line of scrimmage on the defensive team’s side, the offensive player will get flagged for offsides.


What is the penalty for offsides in football?

In football, the penalty for offsides is always a loss of five yards from the line of scrimmage and an automatic first down. This penalty is the same in both rule and penalty across the NFHS (high school), NCAA, NFL, and CFL. The penalty is usually called on the defense, but the offense can also be penalized.

What is an offside penalty in football?

An offside penalty in football occurs when a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage prior to the ball being snapped. Offside results in a five-yard penalty against the defense. While both the offense and defense can be called for this penalty, it is usually called on the defense. The typical offensive equivalent of the offside penalty is a false start.

What is the difference between offside and encroachment in football?

The difference between offside and encroachment in football is whether the defensive player came in contact with an offensive player or not. If a defensive player jumps the snap and makes contact with an offensive player or the ball, they will be flagged for encroachment. If a defensive player simply jumps the snap without making contact with anyone, they will be flagged for offside.

Can an offside penalty be challenged in football?

Offside penalties in football are non-reviewable, meaning they cannot be challenged by coaches. Since offside is a judgment call made by the officials, it is non-reviewable. Other penalties similar to offside, including encroachment and false starts, are also non-reviewable.