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How To Play American Football for Beginners

Updated on June 19, 2013

Football 101

American football is one of the world’s most watched sport. Understanding the basic rules, regulations and scoring of football makes this popular sport more enjoyable and exciting.

Instructions on How to Play Football

Source

How To Score In Football

Points
Name
Definition
6
Touchdown
In order to score a touchdown some portion of the ball must cross the goal line in the possession of an offensive player.
1
Extra Point- After a touchdown
The kicker kicks the ball between the uprights of the goalpost and above the crossbar.
2
Extra Point- After a touchdown
Advances the ball across the goal line again as if scoring an immediate 2nd touchdown.
3
Field Goal
The kicker kicks the ball between the uprights of the goalpost and above the crossbar.
2
Safety
A safety is scored if the opponent travels backwards into their own endzone and is downed in the endzone or steps out of bounds in the endzone.

Football

Football is a timed sport, the team with the most points at the end of the time period wins the game. The football, an oblong shaped brown and white ball, is advanced by runners or by passing until the opposing team tackles or stops the play.

Goal: To score the most points.

Time: Football games are divided up into two halves or four quarters. The clock doesn't run all of the time. It gets stopped for time outs and between certain plays.

  • High school each quarter is 12 minutes long
  • College and NFL each quarter is 15 minutes

Dimensions: The field is 100 yards (300 feet) long and 53 1/3 yards (160 feet) wide.

  • At each end of the field is an end zone. This area extends the field another 10 yards on each side.

Field Goal: Centered at the end of the end zone is the field goal. The bottom of the field goal is 10 feet high.

Field position: Where the offense starts with the ball determines how far they have to go to score. Good field position can mean the difference between scoring or not scoring. Many times the team with the best field position throughout the game wins.

Jersey Numbers: Each player has a number on their jersey. In the NFL certain positions must have a number within a certain range.

  • 1-9: Quarterback, kicker, punter
  • 10-19: Quarterback, wide receiver, kicker, punter
  • 20-29: Running back, corner back, safety
  • 30-39: Running back, cornerback, safety
  • 40-49: Running back, tight end, cornerback, safety
  • 50-59: Offensive line, defensive line, linebacker
  • 60-69: Offensive line, defensive line
  • 70-79: Offensive line, defensive line
  • 80-89: Wide receiver, tight end
  • 90-99: Defensive line, linebacker

Understanding How To Play American Football Video

What is a football down?

A down is basically a football play, or the time when the ball is played. A down begins with a snap to the quarterback or kicker and ends when the ball or the player in possession of the ball is declared down by an official.

Downs usually end when:

  • The player with the ball is tackled
  • The team scores
  • The ball or player in possession of the ball steps out of bounds
  • The player with the ball fumbles, or drops the ball
  • The quarterback throws an incomplete pass, or deliberately throws the ball to the ground
  • A player recovering the ball in one's opponent's end zone following a kick-off and drops to one knee

When the team has possession of the football their offense will have 4 tries, or 4 downs, to move the football only 10 yards. At any time the offensive team gains 10 yards or more, than the downs start over. If they do not gain 10 yards within the 4 tries, the opposing team gets possession of the football. If they fail at the 4th attempt the other team get’s possession of the ball at the spot where the ball last down.

Note: Usually the team will punt the ball on their 4th try to try to get it as far away from the opponent's goal as they can.

When you hear the announcer say 2nd and 7- he is basically saying this is the second down, or second try to the offense needs to move the ball 7 more yards to complete 10 yards. After the 10 yards are completed the downs will start over again allowing the offense to get closer to the goal line and score.

Important downs and yards you will hear the announcer say:

  • 1st and 10 (This references the offense has possession of the ball and has 4 tries to move the ball 10 yards.)
  • 1st and goal (This references the offense has possession of the ball and the goal line is within less than 10 yards, they have 4 tries to make a touchdown.)
  • 4th and 2+ (At this point the offense has to decide if they will try to move the ball to gain another 1st down, punt the ball to the other team moving it further away from the other teams goal line, or if they are close enough they could try for a field goal.)
  • 4th and 1 (Sometimes teams will ‘go for it’ and try to move the ball one yard to gain another set of downs. If they fail the other team get’s possession of the ball at the spot where the ball last down.)


What are the Orange Field Markers on the Football Field?

Source

The orange filed markers on the sidelines are used to help determine if the offense gained 10 yards. They are used especially when it is too close for the officials to determine if the football placement on the last play has indeed gained 10 yards or more. There is a chain between the two markers. When the makers all pulled tautly they measure exactly 10 yards.

The number marker on the sidelines indicates what down, or what play the offense is playing. The number marker will display the numbers 1, 2, 3, or 4.

Quarterback

Source

Football Offensive Team

The team that has possession of the football puts their offense players on the field. Their goal is to advance the ball and score. They have four downs to go ten yards to get a first down or they lose possession of the ball. The offense can advance the ball by running or passing it.

Eleven offense players are on the field during plays.

Football Positions- Offense

 
Positions
Definitions
Strengths
Famous Football Players
1
Center
In the middle of the offensive line, the center snaps the football to the quarterback, and then blocks
Big, strong, able to block
Mike Webster, Pittsburgh, Steelers
2
Left Guard
Protect the quarterback and open holes for the running backs
Big, strong, able to block
Jerry Kramer, Green Bay, Packers
3
Right Guard
Protect the quarterback and open holes for the running backs
Big, strong, able to block
Gene Upshaw, Oakland, Raiders
4
Left Tackle
Protect the quarterback
Big, strong, able to block
Anthony Munoz, Cincinnati, Bengals
5
Right Tackle
Protect the quarterback
Big, strong, able to block
Dan Dierdorf, St. Louis, Cardinals
6
Tight End
Tight ends are combination offensive linemen and receivers
Big, strong, fast, and have good hands
Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City, Chiefs
7
Quarterback
The man in charge. He calls the signals to begin the plays. He is the primary ball handler. The quarterback may run with the ball, hand it off to a running back, or pass the football to a receiver
Leadership, strong, good passer, be able to see the field, read the defense, and make good decisions quickly
Brett Favre, Green Bay, Packers
8
Running Back
Full backs are a type of running back whose main job is to block. They usually run in front and block for another running back that is carrying the football
Strong, fast, and able to see the field and quickly cut toward openings in the defense
Jim Brown, Cleveland, Browns
9
Running Back
Their main job is to carry the football, but running backs also need to block during pass plays
Strong, fast, and able to see the field and quickly cut toward openings in the defense
Walter Payton, Chicago, Bears
10
Wide Receiver
These players main job is to get open and catch passes
Speed, ability to catch the football
Jerry Rice, San Francisco, 49ers
11
Wide Reciver
These players main job is to get open and catch passes
Speed, ability to catch the football
Cris Carter, Minnesota, Vikings
Famous Football Players taken from http://bleacherreport.com

American Football Positions

Source

Defense Tackle

Source

Football Defensive Team

The team that does not have possession of the football puts their defense players on the field. Their goal is to stop the other team from advancing the ball and scoring. The defense tries to stop the offense from getting 10 yards in four plays and scoring. If they can do this their team gets the ball back. Defenses are also trying to get the ball through turnovers like a fumble or interception.

Eleven defense players are on the field during plays.

Football Positions- Defense

 
Positions
Definition
Strengths
Famous Football Player
1
Middle Line Backer
Plays at the center of the Defense line
Big, strong player who can clog up the middle and make it hard for the offensive team to run the ball
Ray Lewis, Baltimore, Ravens
2
Defensive Tackle
Inside force of the defensive line
Big, strong, able to tackle
Joe Greene, Pittsburg, Steelers
3
Defensive Tackle
Inside force of the defensive line
Big, strong, able to tackle
Alan Page, Minnesota, Vikings
4
Defensive End
Rush the passer and to keep any rushing plays contained from getting outside
Big and strong, but also fast so they can get around the outside and to the quarterback
Gino Marchetti, Baltimore, Colts
5
Defensive End
Rush the passer and to keep any rushing plays contained from getting outside
Big and strong, but also fast so they can get around the outside and to the quarterback
Reggie White, Green Bay, Packers
6
Line Backer
Usually the main tacklers on the defense
Fast and good tacklers
Lawrence Taylor, New York, Giants
7
Line Backer
Usually the main tacklers on the defense
Fast and good tacklers
Dick Butkus, Chicago, Bears
8
Corner Back
Cover the wide receivers and try to prevent them from catching a pass, also help line backers
Speed, able to read plays
Richard Sherman, Seattle, Seahawks
9
Corner Back
Cover the wide receivers and try to prevent them from catching a pass, also help line backers
Speed, able to read plays
Charles Tillman, Chicago, Bears
10
Safety
Safeties are there to prevent the big play. At least one safety tries to stay behind the wide receivers if they should pass the cornerbacks
Speed, good tackler
Chuck Cecil, Houston, Oilers
11
Safety
Safeties are there to prevent the big play. At least one safety tries to stay behind the wide receivers if they should pass the cornerbacks
Speed, good tackler
Ronnie Lott, San Francisco, 49ers
Famous Football Players taken from http://bleacherreport.com

Punter

Source

Special Teams

Offensive and the defensive teams play a considerable amount of time in a football game, but there is a third set of team players that play an important role in every game- the special teams.


The special teams include:

  • The kickoff unit
  • The punting unit
  • The punt return and kickoff return unit
  • The field goal and extra point unit

The kickers are members of the special teams in football. They have very specialized skills and roles to play in the game.

Football Positions- Special Teams

 
Position
Definition
Strengths
Famous Football Player
1
Punter
Kicks punts
Flexibility, strong legs, able to control his distance to stop the ball inside the 20 yard line
Ray Guy, Oakland, Raiders
2
Field Goal kicker
Kicks field goals and extra points.
Flexibility, strong legs, able to perform under pressure
Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis, Colts
3
Holder
Holds the ball for the field goal kicker.
Able to catch, steady, able to pass if needed.
Steve Weatherford, New York, Giants
4
Long Snapper
Snaps the ball to the punter.
Strong, good listener
Patrick Mannelly, Chicago, Bears
Famous Football Players taken from http://bleacherreport.com

Line of Scrimmage

Source

Football Positions

Football is a true team sport. Most teams will play at least 30 or 40 players on a regular basis during a game. Each player usually specializes in a particular position and skill.

Football is a full contact sport therefore, equipment, helmets and rules are adhered too to keep players as safe from injury as possible.

© Copyright Carly Sullens 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Just wonderful. Well done -- this took some work. I like it!

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Thank you Eric. It did take some time. I hope it would be useful to those who are trying to understand this amazing sport.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I go through it a couple of times a year as my better half's family comes where there is no such thing, but they can see it on satellite.

    • pmarinov profile image

      Blogger at Best 3 years ago from Detroit MI

      Very detailed and well written hub!

      Thank you, this hub will be very helpful to people outside the US who are just getting into the American Football world.

      Voted up and useful!

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      pmarinov, I am glad it helps. Thank you for voting up and sharing.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      I had no idea about the jersey numbers. As a rule, I only watch the game if I'm with an interpreter. This is having lived in the US for most of my life. You did a very good job in explanations. Another HOB? Great job!

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Thank You MsDora. When I was a little girl my dad was my interpreter. I asked a lot of questions, but it helped make the game more exciting because I could understand what I was cheering for.

    • profile image

      Tara 3 years ago

      Loved it! Lets play ball! The kids and I enjoyed learning about the different positions. I will keep this close by when the season starts..

    • aud99 profile image

      Audrey 3 years ago

      I can never understand American football. I can understand Australian football though. I think that is simpler in terms of the rules. Now, if I'm confused about the game, I know where to read up on it!

    • NornsMercy profile image

      Chace 3 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Awesome hub! :) Great layout and I love the tables. My mother needs to read this because she loves football but has no idea how it works... I think she just watches it for the dudes, lol!

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Tara, thank you for stopping by. The different positions and their names is where I too need to keep studying. I like that in the pros the number ranges indicate the positions. That is helpful when spotting single players from the team.

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      aud99, I am glad this hub helped. I didn't know Australia had a football . Something I would like to know more about. :)

    • CarlySullens profile image
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      CarlySullens 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Chace, I think many people, mom's and women especially like football but do not really understand. Once you understand it better I think the game becomes that much more exciting. I hope she likes the hub.

    • ParadigmEnacted profile image

      ParadigmEnacted 3 years ago

      Good rough outline. I'd recommend this to certain people.

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Thank you ParadigmEnacted. It is a good rough outline and simple for those who are just learning the game.

    • TeaPartyCrasher profile image

      TeaPartyCrasher 3 years ago from Camp Hill, PA

      One quick note, I have never heard the term "Place Holder" used; usually that person is just called the "Holder".

      May I suggest for part 2, you look at common offensive plays like the sweep, trap, screen pass, etc. Also looking at some basic defensive alignments 4-3 and 3-4 as well as blitzing, etc.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 3 years ago from Western NC

      Haha...congrats on HOTD! And a great topic, too. I know NOTHING about football, but I'll come here when I need a refresher. :)

    • Toytasting profile image

      Toy Tasting 3 years ago from Mumbai

      Carly, This was an interesting read. I shall send the link to my brother, he just loves this sport. Congratulations on HOTD! Cheers :)

    • thebiologyofleah profile image

      thebiologyofleah 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great Hub, very deserving of Hub of the Day. I was so excited to see this when I logged on because I have been meaning to read up on the basics of football. I enjoy watching with my family during the season and I understand the very basics but this article helps tie everything together for me. Thank you!

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      thebiologyofleah, I am glad this hub pulls it all together for you. It is a hard sport to learn because of all the intricacies of the rules, positions, etc. However, once you 'get it,' the game becomes that more exciting because you understand exactly what the offensive and defensive need to accomplish in order to win.

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Toyasting, Thank you for stopping by, reading and commenting. I hope your brother enjoys the hub.

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Cyndi, thank you for reading and commenting. I am glad this hub can help you understand this game a little bit more.

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      TeaPartyCrashers, I like your idea of adding common offensive and defensive plays. I think I will make another hub for that, because this one is already lengthy and I wanted to keep the information as simple as I could as not to overwhelm the reader who knows little to nothing about football. Thank you for the suggestions!

    • profile image

      jdw7979 3 years ago

      Nice hub! I enjoyed the read, and as a former player and current fan, appreciate the ideas and work put into this HUB..

    • rose-the planner profile image

      rose-the planner 3 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

      Wow.......this is an amazing article! It has definitely helped me to understand the sport a lot better. It's no wonder that you made HOTD, this was excellent. Congratulations and thank you for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose

    • CarlySullens profile image
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      CarlySullens 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      jdw7979, thank you! I appreciate your comments.

    • CarlySullens profile image
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      CarlySullens 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Hi Rose, I am glad you understand football a lot better. Thank you for sharing and voting up. It is always appreciated.

    • profile image

      Christopher 5 months ago

      Good good good.

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