American football: History, Teams, positions, and Rules

 American football, commonly known as gridiron or just football in the United States and Canada, is a team sport that is played by two teams of eleven players on a field that is rectangular in shape and has goalposts at either end. The defense, the team without the ball, seeks to halt the offense's movement and seize control of the ball for themselves. The offense, the team in possession of the oval-shaped football, attempts to advance down the field by running with the ball or throwing it.


The offense is awarded a new set of four downs to resume the drive if they successfully gain at least 10 yards in four downs or plays. If they fail, they forfeit the ball to the defense. In order to score a touchdown or a field goal, the ball must be advanced into the end zone of the opposing team or kicked past their goalposts. At the conclusion of a game, the team with the most points wins.


In the United States, American football developed from the games of rugby and soccer. On November 6, 1869, two collegiate teams, Rutgers and Princeton, played the inaugural game of American football utilizing regulations derived from soccer at the time. The snap, the line of scrimmage, eleven-player teams, and the idea of downs were all established through a set of rule modifications created from 1880 onward by Walter Camp, known as the "Father of American Football." Later rule modifications established the neutral zone, made the forward pass permissible, and outlined the football's dimensions and shape.


Although its rules were devised independently from those of Camp, the sport is strongly similar to Canadian football, which emerged concurrently and concurrently with the American game. Canadian football shares the majority of characteristics with American football that set it apart from rugby and soccer. The two competitions are regarded as the main gridiron football subtypes.


According to the number of people who watch broadcasts of sports events, American football is the most watched sport in the country. Football is played at several levels, with professional and collegiate football being the most popular. High school and youth football are the other two major divisions. In the United States, 70,000 collegiate players and almost 1.1 million high school athletes participated in the sport each year as of 2012. With the greatest average attendance of any professional sports league in the world, the National Football League is the most well-known American professional football league.


The Super Bowl, its championship game, is one of the most popular club sporting events in the world. The league is the most valuable sports league in the world, with yearly revenues of almost $15 billion USD. Although there are other professional leagues around the world, the sport does not have the same level of global acclaim as American sports like baseball or basketball.

American football

American Football History

Rugby and soccer were the ancestors of American football. Similar to American football, rugby pits two opposing teams against one another for possession of a ball that can be used to score points by being kicked through a set of goalposts or running into the goal area of the opposition.


On November 6, 1869, Rutgers and Princeton, two collegiate teams, competed in what is regarded as the first American football game. Each team had 25 men, and they played with a round ball that was impossible to pick up or carry. However, it might be advanced into the opposing goal by being kicked or batted with the feet, hands, head, or sides. The score was 6-4 for Rutgers. For a number of years, collegiate games were played utilizing the host school's regulations. On October 19, 1873, representatives from Yale, Columbia, Princeton, and Rutgers gathered to develop a uniform set of guidelines for use by all universities.


Teams had a maximum of 20 players, and the fields measured 400 by 250 feet (122 by 76 meters). Harvard chose not to participate in the conference because they preferred a sport that permitted running with the ball, like rugby. After using both Canadian and American rules to compete against McGill University, the Harvard players decided they preferred the Canadian way of playing, which included only 11 players on the field, running the ball without having to dodge an opponent's pursuit, the forward pass, tackling, and using an oblong ball rather than a round one.


Two athletes from Princeton watched an 1875 rugby-style game between Harvard and Yale and were impressed. The Professional Football Researchers Association compared their success in bringing the game to Princeton to "selling refrigerators to Eskimos." Then, Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and Columbia decided to play intercollegiate games under modified rugby union rules. The Intercollegiate Football Association was established by these colleges, however, Yale didn't join until 1879.


The "Father of American Football," Yale athlete Walter Camp, changed the rules in 1880, reducing the number of players on each team from 15 to 11, and introducing the snap in place of the erratic and chaotic scrum. Even though the match between Rutgers and Princeton is frequently cited as the start of American football, the Oneida Football Club was founded in 1862 and is currently the country's oldest football organization. From 1862 through 1865, the squad, which was made up of alumni from Boston's prestigious preparatory schools, competed.


American Football Teams and Positions

Two teams of 11 players each compete in a football game. Having more players on the field while playing results in a penalty. This "platoon" system, which replaced the previous system with its restrictive substitution restrictions, allows teams to substitute any number of their players between downs. As a result, teams now use specialized offensive, defensive, and special teams units.


A uniform number between 1 and 99 must be used to identify each player in a football game. Any deviations must be granted by the commissioner. NFL teams are required to number their players according to a league-approved numbering scheme. Teams in the NCAA and NFHS are "highly advised" to number their offensive players in accordance with a recommended system put forward by the league.


Despite the fact that men play football almost exclusively, women are allowed to participate in high school, college, and professional football. Women have participated in high school and college football games but have never played in the NFL. In Pop Warner Little Scholars youth football in 2018, 1,100 of the 225,000 participants were female. According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, roughly 11% of the 5.5 million Americans who report playing tackle football are female. Women can work as officials, and in 2015, Sarah Thomas became the first female official in the NFL.


American Football Rules



The team with the most points at the end of the game is declared the victor in football. In a football game, there are many different methods to score. In American football, the touchdown (TD), which is worth six points, is the most valuable scoring play. The scoring team then attempts a try or conversion, more formally known as the point(s)-after-touchdown (PAT), which is a single scoring opportunity. A touchdown is scored when a live ball is advanced into, caught in, or recovered in the opposing team's end zone. Depending on the level of play, a PAT is most frequently attempted from the two or three-yard line.


It is worth two points if it is scored by what would generally be a touchdown; this is known as a two-point conversion. Extra point attempts are much more frequent than two-point conversion attempts because, in general, the extra point is almost always successful while the two-point conversion is a much riskier play with a higher probability of failure. A field goal (FG), which is worth three points, is scored when the ball is dropped or placed through the goalposts of the defense's defense and over the crossbars. The scoring team must kick the ball to the opposing team after a successful PAT attempt or field goal.


When the ball carrier is stopped in his own end zone, safety is recorded. The defense receives two points for safeties, which are worth one point each. Additionally, the side that gave up the safety must free-kick the ball to the team that scored.


American Football Field and Equipment

Football games are played on a rectangular field that measures 120 yards (110 m) long and 53+1⁄3 yards (48.8 m) wide. The end lines and sidelines are the lines painted on the ends and sides of the field. 10 yards (9.1 meters) inward from each end line are marked as goal lines.


On the inside corner of the intersections with the goal lines and end lines, weighted pylons are positioned on the sidelines. The distance from the end zone is shown on the field by white lines. Hash marks, also known as inbound lines, are brief parallel lines that demarcate 1-yard (0.91 m) intervals. Every five yards, yard lines that can span the entire field are indicated (4.6 m). At each end of the field, there is a one-yard-wide line that is marked at the middle of the two-yard line for professional games and the three-yard line for collegiate games. On both sides of the field, numbers every ten yards indicate the distance in yards from the closest goal line.


The goalposts are positioned in the middle of the two end lines' plane. The vertical uprights at the end of the crossbar are 18 feet 6 inches (5.64 m) apart for professional and university play and 23 feet 4 inches (7.11 m) apart for a high school play. The crossbar of these posts is 10 feet (3.0 m) above the ground. On professional fields, the uprights reach a height of 35 feet (11 m), on college fields, a minimum of 10 yards (9.1 m), and on high school fields, a minimum of 10 feet (3.0 m). The bases of goal posts are cushioned, and orange ribbons are typically tied at the top of each upright to serve as wind speed and direction indicators.


The actual football is an oval ball, much like the ones used in Australian rules football or rugby. The football is 14 to 15 ounces (400 to 430 g) in weight and is inflated to 12+12 to 13+12 pounds per square inch (86 to 93 kPa) at all levels of play; beyond that, the precise measurements vary significantly. The ball's dimensions in professional play are 11 to 11+14 inches (28 to 29 cm) in length, 28 to 28+12 inches (71 to 72 cm) in circumference, and 21 to 21+14 inches in length (53 to 54 cm).


The ball's dimensions for use in college and high school games are 10+7/8 to 11+7/16 inches (27.6 to 29.1 cm) in length, 27+3/4 to 28+12 inches (70 to 72 cm) in circumference, and 20+3/4 to 21+1/4 inches in length (53 to 54 cm).


Stoppages in Time and Duration

In the professional and collegiate play, football games are made up of two halves that are each 30 minutes long and four quarters that are each 15 minutes long. Football games in high school last 48 minutes, divided into two halves of 24 minutes each and four quarters of 12 minutes each. Halftime separates the two halves, and the first and third quarters are followed by a brief intermission. The referee tosses the coin with the captain of each team in the middle before the game begins. The winning team can decide whether to receive the ball or kick it off, as well as which goal they choose to defend. The visiting team can call either "heads" or "tails." They may postpone making a decision until the Second Half.


In the absence of a deferral decision by the winning side, the losing team chooses whether to kick, receive, or pick a goal to defend to start the second half. Since kicking the ball to start the game gives the opposing side the option of selecting which goal to defend, the majority of teams opt to receive or defer. Following the first and third quarters, teams trade goals. When a quarter expires with a down in progress, play continues until the down is finished.


Due to play interruptions, games last longer than expected; an average NFL game lasts just over three hours. The game clock keeps track of time during a football game. The game clock must be started, stopped, and operated by an operator in accordance with the directives of the relevant official. The amount of time the offense has to start a play is shown by a separate play clock. The play clock is set to 40 seconds when play is progressing normally and 25 seconds following certain administrative stoppages in play. The offense commits a delay of game foul if a play is not initiated by the offense before the play clock reaches "00."


Ball Advancement and Downs

The offense can move the ball forward mostly through rushing and passing. The snap is the center's backward, between-the-legs pass of the football to the quarterback during a play. The quarterback then either throws the ball, runs with it, or hands it off to a running back. When a player with the ball is tackled, goes out of bounds, or a pass hits the ground without being caught by a player, the play is over. Only when the passer is behind the line of scrimmage may a forward pass be attempted legally, and only once each down. Players can also pass the ball backward at any time during a play, just like in rugby. In the NFL, if the runner's helmet comes off, the down is also over instantly.


A down is a set of four plays that are handed to the offense. A new set of four downs is given to the offense if they gain ten or more yards in the first four downs. Possession of the football is given over to the defense if they fail to gain ten yards. The offense will typically punt the ball to the other team on fourth down, forcing them to start their drive from a greater distance on the field. If they are in field goal range, though, they might try to kick a field goal instead. The chain crew, a team of officials, maintains an account of both the distances traveled and the downs. A yellow line is digitally added to the field on television.


Football Kicking

Football kicks can be divided into two categories: scrimmage kicks, which the offensive team can execute on any down from behind or on the line of scrimmage, and free kicks. The kickoff, which begins in the first and third quarters as well as overtime, is a free kick. The safety kick, which comes after a successful field goal attempt or try, is a free kick.


In professional and collegiate play, the ball is placed at the 35-yard line of the kicking team; in the high school play, it is placed at the 40-yard line. You can position the ball or drop-kick it. If a place kick is selected, the ball may be positioned on the ground on a tee; in either instance, a holder may be utilized. The team kicking the ball kicks it from its own 20-yard line for a safety kick. They are permitted to place kick, drop kick, and punt the ball, but not to use a tee in competitive play. The ball may be caught or advanced by any member of the receiving team. Once the ball has traveled at least ten yards, touched the ground, or been touched by any player on the receiving team, the kicking team may recover it.


Place kicks, drop kicks, and punts are the three different kinds of scrimmage kicks. Points are only awarded for place kicks and drop kicks. The place kick is the preferred way to score points because the football's pointed shape makes drop kicks unpredictable. Only if it is collected or recovered behind the line of scrimmage can the kicking team advance the ball after it has been kicked during a scrimmage kick. Beyond this line, it becomes dead at the point of contact if it is touched or recovered by the kicking team. The kicking team is not allowed to obstruct the receiver's chance to catch the ball. The defense is not allowed to block into or tackle the receiver if the receiving team signals for a fair catch. The moment the ball is caught, the play is over; it cannot advance.


American Football Officials and Fouls

Game rules enforcement and timekeeping are the responsibilities of the officials. Except for the referee, who wears a white hat, all officials are equipped with whistles, wear black shirts with white stripes, and wear black hats. Each holds a yellow flag that is weighted and tossed to the ground to indicate the calling of a foul. When there are several fouls, the official will throw their hat as a backup signal. Each of the seven officials on the field (of a typical seven-man crew; lesser levels of play up to the college level utilize fewer officials) is charged with a distinct set of duties.


The official is positioned to the side and behind the offensive backs. With regard to the score, the down number, and any rule interpretations in debates among the other officials, the referee is responsible for overseeing and controlling the game. The referee announces all penalties, talks with the captain of the side that committed the offense, watches for unsportsmanlike hits on the quarterback, asks for first-down measurements, and alerts the head coach anytime a player is dismissed. The official is positioned on the quarterback's passing side. The referee is typically in charge of spotting the ball before a play from scrimmage in games.


Except in the NFL, where the umpire is placed lateral to the referee on the opposing side of the formation, the umpire is situated in the defensive backfield. To ensure that there are no more than 11 offensive players on the field prior to the snap and that no offensive linemen are positioned improperly downfield during pass plays, the umpire monitors play along the line of scrimmage. When offensive and defensive lines collide, the umpire watches to see whether a penalty for holding is warranted. The umpire keeps track of the number of timeouts used, the coin toss winner, and the final score of the game. He or she also helps the referee when the ball is in play very close to the line of scrimmage, decides whether player equipment is acceptable, and dries wet balls before the snap in the event that a game is played in the rain.


Deep in the defensive backfield, behind the umpire, is where the back judge is placed. The back judge decides if catches are lawful, whether field goal or extra point tries are good, and whether a pass interference infraction happened in addition to making sure the defensive team has no more than 11 players on the field. When a visible play clock is not utilized, the back judge is also in charge of the play clock, which is the interval between each play.


On one side of the line of scrimmage, there is a head linesman/down judge. The head linesman/down judge supports the line judge with illegal shift or illegal motion calls and keeps an eye out for any line-of-scrimmage and illegal use-of-hands offenses. The head linesman/down judge also supervises the chain crew, makes decisions on out-of-bounds calls that occur on their side of the field and marks a runner's forward movement after a play is whistled dead.


Twenty yards from the head linesman on the field is where the side judge is located. The side judge essentially performs the same duties as the field judge. The side judge stands lateral to the umpire during field goal and extra point attempts.


The line judge is placed across from the head linesman at the end of the line of scrimmage. They oversee the line of scrimmage during punts, player substitutions, and game timing. When a quarter has ended and five minutes remain till halftime, the line judge alerts the referee and the home team's head coach, respectively. When there are two minutes left in the half in the NFL, the line judge also notifies the referee. The line judge serves as the official timekeeper in the event that the clock breaks down or is rendered unusable.


Twenty yards away from the line judge on the field is where the field judge is located. The field judge keeps an eye on the play clock, counts the number of defensive players on the field, and keeps an eye out for offensive pass interference and offensive players using their hands improperly. In addition, the field judge decides on catches, recoveries, the location of the ball when a player steps out of bounds, and whether it is illegal to touch fumbled balls that have crossed the line of scrimmage. The field judge is positioned across from the back judge on field goal and extra point attempts.


An eighth official that is only utilized at the highest level of college football is the center judge. Similar to how the NFL's umpire stands lateral to the referee, the center judge does the same. The center judge, with the exception of calling penalties, performs many of the same duties as the referee, including spotting the ball following each play.


The chains are moved by the chain crew, a different group of officials. A first down is measured using the chains, which are two big sticks with a 10-yard chain between them. The chain crew observes the game from the sidelines, although they will momentarily enter the field to measure if the referee requests it. A chain crew will typically consist of at least three persons; two of the crew members will each hold one of the two sticks, while the third will hold the down marker. After every play, the down marker—a big pole with a dial on it—is flipped to show the current down and is often moved to the general location of the ball. Since it has been in use for more than a century, the chain crew technique is regarded as a reliable gauge of distance that receives little criticism from either side.


Final Word

Finally, that is all about the history of American football and its teams and rules. Now it’s time to know what happens on the field when you are watching a game. The rules are simple but might confuse some as they require a lot of stamina and hand-eye coordination. Moreover, they take place on turf fields so be careful not to trip or fall.


In case you want more information on this sport, keep checking back here because we will update our articles frequently with new ones.

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