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  1. american football
  2. penalties
  3. personal foul

Football Personal Foul

Table of Contents

What is a Personal Foul in Football?

A personal foul in football is a foul that is deemed as unnecessarily rough or flagrant. A personal foul is a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down for the offense if performed by the defense. Personal fouls are decided upon by the head referee and their crew.

Types of Personal Fouls

There are many different personal fouls which can be confusing, but we've broken them down into four main categories.


Roughing describes late and flagrant hits to protected positions. Those positions are the quarterback, punter, placekicker, and holder. Hits to these players after the whistle or play are announced by the referees as roughing the (position).

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Unsportsmanlike conduct refers to an excessively violent play or the violation of sportsmanship rules. That includes taunting another player as well as a celebration that is deemed too extreme.


Targeting is a personal foul mainly called in college football to protect the heads of players. A play is targeting either if the defender leaders with their head or delivers a blow to the head and neck area of a receiver. If called the player is ejected from the game.

Hands to the face

In football, hands are not allowed to be in the face area of another player. It is a rule focused on the safety of the players. Hands to the face is a general personal foul that is called, one variation of it is the call "face mask".

Face mask

The personal foul facemask refers to grabbing onto and then pulling an opponent's face mask. The face mask is the front part of the helmet. The foul is called usually when it is clear the head of the player twists due to contact

Personal Foul Punishments

On top of the 15 yards added on to the end of the play for the defense (15 yards back for the offense) players can possibly be ejected from the game. After the ejection players can also be subjected to suspension by the league, which would also result in a fine and loss of pay for professionals.


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