Learn Football in 20 Minutes
I have always wanted to know more about football because I love everything that surrounds it. A few years back, I was working in morning radio and we had Joe Theismann come in studio. Joe FREAKING Theismann. Even though I knew about a half a thing about football, I knew this guy’s name. Well, I knew he’d had an epic leg break in the middle of a game. WATCH:
How can you do an interview with such a huge name in football and know NOTHING other than what a touchdown is!? You are honest with him, that’s how. Joe came in studio; I tried on his giant Superbowl rings, he taught me a thing or two, and then gave me his book.
I remember nothing.
I’m too visual to read a book about this nonsense. However, when it comes to tailgate time, I wanna be wearing team colors and drinking beer from a red solo cup.
So…let’s break it down right quick. I’m no pro but I am connected with people who DO know their football. Thank you to my husband Jeff, my step-dad Paul and my mom’s friend Pat Johnson.
We can cover the basics so you don’t look like an idiot this fall.
STARTING FROM THE BEGINNING:
Football is played on a FIELD while wearing UNIFORMS.
Both teams play OFFENSE and DEFENSE. The ball determines who is playing which “side”. The team currently with the ball (trying for a touchdown) is OFFENSE.
The team trying to get the ball from the other team so they don’t score is DEFENSE (protecting the end zone – see TERMS DEFINED for definitions).
Basically, while facing the LINE OF SCRIMMAGE, the player’s butts point to the side of the field they don’t want the others to get to.
The guys wearing stripes are the GAME OFFICIALS commonly referred to as REFEREES. However, there is technically only one referee. During a game, there are SEVEN REFEREES on the field. They are as follows:
- Referee (he is the crew chief and is often called the head referee)
- Head linesman
- Line judge
- Back judge
- Side judge
- Field judge
FUN FACT: A woman named Sarah Thomas, who is a mother of three, is in line to become the first ever female referee.
WHERE THE PLAYERS STAND AND WHAT THEY DO:
- QUARTERBACK: He’s the leader. He is in charge of calling the plays, he’s the one standing up yelling to the other team members when everyone else is hunched over facing the line of scrimmage, he is the one who receives the “hiked” ball from the center. Once the quarterback receives the ball, he has three options. 1. Run with the ball. 2. Throw the ball to any receiver. 3. Hands the ball to the running back. This is all according to the play he just shouted out.
- CENTER: He’s the one in the, get this…center. He “hikes” or “snaps” the ball to the quarterback. The center is always the one who has the ball on every play. It starts with him.
- RUNNING BACK: Also known as TAILBACKS, RUSHERS AND HALFBACKS. Other than exhausted and beat up, the running back does exactly what his name says…he runs with the football toward the end zone.
- FULLBACK: He blocks for the running back and protects the quarterback so he can pass the ball if he chooses. These dudes are the big ones. If needed, they can run for short yardage and receive the ball.
- WIDE RECEIVER: He catches the football and avoids all the guys defending him. Up to four wide receivers are used on every play.
- TIGHT END: He can catch and he can block. When looking for this player, you can spot him to the right or left of the quarterback just beside the offensive tackle.
- LEFT GUARD/RIGHT GUARD: These are the two guys on the line closest to the center. They block and protect the quarterback and anyone carrying the ball.
- LEFT TACKLE/RIGHT TACKLE: These guys can be found on the outside of the offensive line. They are big dudes, too.
THESE ARE THE GUYS YOU HAVE TO GET THROUGH TO SCORE:
- DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Their sole purpose is to stop a running play or run through an opening in the offensive line to distract or disrupt the quarterback or any set formation. Oooh, something shiny!
- DEFENSIVE END: Look at the defensive line. Then, look at the outer two guys. This is your defensive END (get it?). These guys work together to tackle anyone carrying the ball. They are also the guys who pressure the ball holder out of bounds.
- LINEBACKER: There are up to four of these guys on every play. They line up behind the linemen and tackle like crazy.
- SAFETY: These guys are the last line of defense.
- CORNERBACK: These guys aren’t in the tight formation facing the line of scrimmage, they are the ones who seem to be wandering about the field. They keep receivers from catching passes.
TERMS AND DEFINITIONS
- HUDDLE: The circle of guys on offense or defense that are being told what the next play is.
- LINE OF SCRIMMAGE: Where the ball is placed on the field. The offense lines up on one side and the defense on the other
- SNAP: The action in which the ball is hiked (tossed between the legs) by the center to the quarterback, to the holder on a kick attempt, or to the punter. When the snap occurs, the ball is officially in play and action begins.
- KICKOFF: A free kick (the receiving team can’t make an attempt to block it) that puts the ball into play. A kickoff is used at the start of the first and third periods and after every touchdown and successful field goal.
- FAIR CATCH: The player receiving the punt can wave his hand in the air (so the other team doesn’t kill him). After signaling for a fair catch, a player can’t run with the ball and can’t be tackled, either.
- DOWN: The time when the ball is in play. Once the play is over (action stops), the down is complete. The offense gets four downs. If they haven’t moved 10 yards, the offense is done with their attempt to score. A lot of times, a punt will happen on the fourth down. If the offense is successful in moving 10 yards, it’s called a FIRST DOWN. Everything, at that point, resets. If success continues an additional 10 yards, it’s a SECOND DOWN, etc.
- DRIVE: A drive is a series of plays for the offense. It’s everything that happens until the offense punts or scores and the other team gets possession of the ball.
- FUMBLE: When a player with the ball drops it before he is down.
- SACK: When the quarterback is tackled behind the line of scrimmage.
- INTERCEPTION: When the defense catches the ball that the other teams quarterback was throwing to one of his teammates (not a good thing for the offense, but a good thing for the defense).
- END ZONE: A 10-yard-long area at both ends of the field — the promised land for a football player. You score a touchdown when you enter the end zone while in control of the football. If you’re tackled in your own end zone while in possession of the football, the other team gets a safety.
- SAFETY: When an offensive guy is tackled in his own end zone the defense is awarded 2 points and the offense then has to kick the ball to the defensive team.
- TOUCHDOWN: When a player crosses the goal line
- EXTRA POINT: A kick, worth one point, that’s typically attempted after every touchdown. It’s also known as the point after touchdown, or PAT. The ball is placed on either the 2-yard line (NFL) or the 3-yard line (college and high school) and generally is kicked from inside the 10-yard line after being snapped to the holder. It must sail between the uprights and above the crossbar of the goalpost to be considered good. If the ball is run or passed across the goal line after a touchdown its worth 2 points.
- PUNT: A kick that is made when a player drops the ball and kicks it while it falls toward his foot. If the offensive team gets a first down after three tries, they typically hike it to the punter and he will kick it to the other team.
- FIELD GOAL: A kick, worth three points, that can be attempted from anywhere on the field but usually is attempted within 40 yards of the goalpost. Like an extra point, a kick must sail above the crossbar and between the uprights of the goalpost to be ruled “good” (as in, it counts).
- FUMBLE: The act of losing possession of the ball while running with it or being tackled. Members of the offense and defense can recover a fumble. If the defense recovers the fumble, the fumble is called a turnover.
- HASH MARKS: The lines on the center of the field that signify 1 yard on the field. Before every play, the ball is spotted between the hash marks or on the hash marks, depending on where the ball carrier was tackled on the preceding play.
- RETURN: The act of receiving a kick or punt and running toward the opponent’s goal line with the intent of scoring or gaining significant yardage.
- HANDOFF: When the ball is handed to another player from the quarterback.
- ONSIDE KICK: An onside kick must travel at least 10 yards before the kicking team can legally touch it, however, the ball does not have to be touched by a defender before the kicking team attempts to recover it.
- BACKFIELD: The running backs and quarterbacks who line up behind the line of scrimmage.
- RED ZONE: When the offense moves the ball inside the defenses 20 yard line. Those 20 yards are considered the red zone.
- RUSHING: When the offense is running with the ball.
- RETURN: When a kick, either a punt or a kick off, is returned.
- TURNOVER: When the offense either fumbles and the defense recovers or quarterback throws an interception.
- SPECIAL TEAMS: All kicking and return teams.
WHAT CAN GO WRONG?
These are PENALTIES
- ENCROACHMENT: When a defensive player enters the neutral zone and makes contact with an opponent before the ball is snapped.
- FACEMASK: When a defensive player puts his hand on or grabs the offensive players face mask.
- HORSECOLLAR: When a defender tackles another player by grabbing the back-inside of an opponent’s shoulder pads from behind and yanking the player down.
- HOLDING OFFENSIVE: A foul in which an offensive player keeps a defender from advancing by grasping him with his hands or arms. Offensive linemen are allowed to use their hands as long as they keep them to the inside of a defenders body, but if they get to the outside of the defender’s body, it is a penalty.
- HOLDING DEFENSIVE: Use of the hands to hold or push an offensive receiver or back on a passing play beyond the first five yards past the line of scrimmage.
- PERSONAL FOUL: These include, but are not limited to: Late hits, unnecessary roughness, and blows to the head. A personal foul results in a 15-yard penalty against the offending team.
- ROUGHING THE KICKER: When a defensive player hits the punter after he has kicked the ball.
- PASS INTERFERENCE: Defensive pass interference awards the offensive team the ball at the spot of the foul with an automatic first . Offensive pass interference results in a 10-yard penalty against the offense.
- OFFSIDE: A penalty that occurs when any part of a defender’s body is beyond his line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped.
- ROUGHING THE PASSER: When a defensive player makes direct contact with the quarterback after the quarterback has released the ball. When this happens, it’s a 15 yard penalty and automatic first down.
HUGE thank you to Pat Johnson and Paul Huck who basically wrote this post for me. I feel so lazy but TOTALLY INFORMED because of it.