Basic play

OFL-style football looks amazingly like similar to other codes of gridiron football, with some critical differences.

Teams

Teams can have up to eleven players on the field at a time (typically we play with seven to ten on a side). Substitutions, should there be more than eleven players on a team, can be taken during any dead ball situation, as per normal football rules.

Teams are divided at random using the handy OFL Randomizer or team captains (or the Commissioner) can decide on teams to ensure as even a game as possible.

In the event there are uneven sides, there are special rules.

Last updated: Sep.10.2021

The Field

The dimensions of the field normally are 75 yards long, plus two 7.5-yard end zones, with the width changing depending on the number of players.

Recommendations field widths:

  • 5-6 a side: 28 yards (~26m)
  • 7-9 a side: 35 yards (~32m)
  • 10-11 a side: 50 yards (~46m)

The field has four first down lines-to-gain marked by cones. There are no hashmarks.

OFL football field
OFL field

Last updated: Oct.29.2021

Scoring

Teams can score touchdowns, field goals, or safeties.

Seven points are awarded to a team that scores a touchdown. The scoring team can elect to decline the automatic one-point 'conversion' and attempt a two-point conversion from three yards from the goal line. If they are successful, they are awarded two points, making the touchdown and conversion worth eight points. If they are not successful, they walk away with six points instead.

A two-point conversion can be run back by the defense for two points (safety).

A touchdown is scored when an offensive player has control of the ball and has one foot (or the majority of his or her body while in a prone position) in the end zone. As with all catches, if there is any controversy regarding one foot inbounds leeway is given if the player has completed a "spectacular" catch.

Three points are given for a standard field goal, held by a teammate and kicked from the ground. Missed field goal attempts are spotted at the spot of the kick attempt.

Six points are given for a drop-kicked field goal.

A safety (two points) is scored when an offensive player is tagged in his or her own end zone or when an offensive player kicks the ball or fumbles the ball out of bounds through his/her own end zone. A safety is worth two points for the defensive team and the offense must kick off back to the defense from their own fifteen-yard line.

On the final play of regulation if the team down is losing by eight points or more they are awarded an "X Point Play" worth however many points it will take to tie the game.

Last updated: Sep.10.2021

Game timing

The game is played in two 45 minute halves, plus extra time in the second half. The clock runs without stoppages except for three time-outs allowed per team in the second half only, or for an injury. The referee/Commissioner attempts to announce the time as each half reaches 45 minutes but it is the responsibility of teams to be aware of the time.

Any teammate may call a time out.

After a game-time stoppage, the clocks restarts at the snap, on field goals when the kicker advances towards the ball, and on kickoffs at the kick.

When time expires in the first half, all play is over. The sole exception is when the offense is set up to attempt a field goal and time runs out before the defense has set the goal posts. In this situation, the offensive team is allowed the field goal attempt after time has expired.

When time expires in the second half, the team with the ball may continue their possession, unless they are in the lead. If the team with ball has a lead when time expires, the ball is immediately turned over to the team that is losing, for a single extra-time final possession. The team losing recovers possession at the spot where the last play at 0:00 is ruled dead—for a single extra-time final possession, thus the team winning must be aware of the clock!

If the team losing scores within 1 minute of regulation and is still losing, the ensuing kickoff is flipped—the scoring team receives the kickoff (thus avoiding a turnover at 0:00 during a kickoff).

Teams, regardless of the score, can not "take a knee", in an attempt to game the clock. This results in an unsportsmanlike penalty (15 yards).

The team losing cannot punt during the final two minutes of the game.

Allowing an opponent to score so as to game the clock is considered bad sportsmanship.

If tied at the end of regulation, the game will end as a tie, except during playoff games which must continue to a sudden-death overtime period (until there is a winner).

The Commissioner maintains the clock. Any clock malfunctions are part of the game.

Play Clock

After a play, and once the ball has been re-spotted—typically by the defense—the offense has 40 seconds to re-snap and ball and restart play.

Last updated: Oct.10.2021

Kickoffs

At the start of the game and of the second half, and after every score, there will be a kickoff. Kickoffs can either be punted or kicked from the ground (using a holder or a "heel-hole" in the ground.)

A "neutral zone" of fifteen yards from the spot of the kick is established before the kick. Players cannot enter this zone before the kick.

The ball is kicked from the a "Kicking Spot" (30 yards from the goal line; 15 yards from the goal line after a safety). If a holder is to be used the ball is held at that spot. If the ball is being punted, the kicker must kick the ball by the time he/she gets to the "Kicking Spot".

The rest of the kicking team lines up fifteen yards behind the Kicking Spot (i.e. normally 15 yards from the goal line).

The receiving team can line up anywhere beyond the neutral zone (i.e. one cone away from the Kicking Spot).

The ball is considered live once it is kicked. The kicking team can recover a kick that has gone at least 15 yards, or has been touched by a receiver first, but cannot advance it.

The team in the lead may not attempt a purposeful onsides kick.

Kickoff returns are spotted at a sensible place in relation to a down marker to avoid 1st-down and inches situations. Thus any returned kick that is spotted between halfway between two cones may be movedup to the next cone, or brought back to the 'half-way' point between cones.

If a kickoff goes out-of-bounds the ball will placed at the receiving team's thirty yard line (second cone)

Touchbacks are spotted 15 yards from the receiving team's goal line (the first cone).

Last updated: Feb.13.2016

First downs

The offense has four downs to reach the next 'line to gain' (marked by a cone) otherwise the ball is turned over.

The field is 75 yards long (plus two end zones) and is broken into segments, each 15 yards long and marked by a cone. These cones mark the 'line to gain' and the goal lines.

The lines-to-gain do not move or change. It is typical that offenses may encounter both first-and-short situations or first-and-long situations.

Last updated: Aug.18.2018

Downing the ball carrier

An offensive player is considered "down" when a defensive player tags the ball-carrier with two hands fully contacting the body (one hand if the player is on the ground). Touching the arms only, or only clothing (i.e. a small bit of T-shirt or the scrimmage vest), or tagging with fingertips, does not constitute a successful tag.

The ball does not count as part of the body.

Legal tag area
Legal tag area
Legal tag area when one arm is tight against the body
Legal tag area when one arm is tight against the body

The defender—once he has made the tag—should then loudly say "Down!". Yelling "down" before actually tagging a ball-carrier is a penalty. As the play stops when a defender says "Down", phantom or incorrect tagging is an 8-yard penalty and automatic first down.

An offensive player is considered "down" when a defensive player tags with the ball-carrier with two hands fully contacting the body (one hand if the player is on the ground). Touching only clothing (i.e. a small bit of T-shirt or the scrimmage vest), or tagging with fingertips, does not constitute a successful tag. Additionally, the ball does not count as part of the body.

The play may also end if a runner declares himself down by falling to the ground and makes no effort to advance, or has stopped advancing due to injury, or because he believed he was tagged.

Grabbing a ball carrier's clothes to stop him is a penalty. Grabbing clothing to stop a ball carrier or pass rush, or to shed a block is a penalty (8-yard penalty and automatic first down). Knocking a player down via a shoulder is a personal foul (15-yard penalty from the spot of the foul, and automatic first down).

If a defender grabs the ball carrier's clothing in an obvious attempt to prevent a touchdown, a penalty touchdown is automatically awarded.

A QB is down the moment he is tagged, regardless of whether the arm is in motion.

A defender may not tag a quarterback under center without first crossing over the line of scrimmage.

Last updated: Jan.17.2022

Legal catch

A legal reception is ONE foot in-bounds. (Great effort is taken into consideration if a catch is in question.)

Last updated: Feb.14.2016

Pass interference

Pass interference is only called if a player is clearly and obviously restrained (held, pushed) from attempting a catch. Unavoidable contact when two or more players are making a simultaneous, bona fide attempt to move toward, catch or bat the pass is NOT pass interference. Additionally, a player unintensionally 'in the way' of a receiver will not be called for pass interference. There is no pass interference on fourth downs, regardless of 'punting formation'.

As in all codes of football, pass interference is a judgement call.

Last updated: Jan.07.2019

Punting

Teams may punt at any time*. Fake punts are allowed. If the punt bounces off a receiving player, or is fumbled after it is caught, it is a live ball. A punt that fails to cross the neutral zone continues in play, as if a fumbled ball. In that instance, all players, including the kicking team, may catch or recover the ball and advance it.

On punts, only three kicking team players ("gunners") may cross the line of offensive line of scrimmage before the ball does.

Once the punted ball crosses the line of scrimmage. the punter should announce "kick's away" so remaining players can proceed downfield. Sending more than three gunners is a four yard penalty (replay the down).

The team trailing cannot punt within the last two minutes of regulation.

Last updated: Oct.10.2021

Field goals

Held field goals are worth 3 points. Dropped field goals are worth 6 points. A field goal is a dead ball play—similar to a rugby penalty kick, or the rare fair-catch free kick in NFL.

When a field goal attempt has been declared. two defensive players must create goal-posts by raising arms laterally, touching fingertips to form an "H" shape and then side-stepping away from each other with two large steps. Fake field goals are not allowed.

OFL goal posts
OFL goal posts

Drop-kicked Field Goals are worth 6 points.

No snap is necessary on any field goal attempt the ball must be kicked from the ground, either via a holder or via a drop-kick.

Rushing is allowed against a field goal attempt from the goal-line only, and no fake field goals are allowed. The ball cannot be advanced by either team, even if blocked or short. The ball can be held (or drop-kicked) from anywhere behind the line the scrimmage.

  1. The defending team will receive the ball on a missed field goal attempt at the spot of the kick attempt.
  2. During a field-goal the defense may attempt to block the kick. Those players who are not positioned as the "goal posts" may now line up on the goal line outside of the "posts", and then charge the ball once the kicker has begun to move forward to kick the ball. Players may not touch the kicker but can bat down the ball. A batted field-goal attempt is a dead ball and the ball turned over at the spot of the kick attempt. Teams do not need to attempt a block of the kick but any attempt must start from the goal line. Attempting to block a field kick without having lined up at the goal line is an illegal procedure penalty (4 yards, & replay the down)

Last updated: Dec.28.2021

Fumbles

Fumbles are live balls and can be recovered by either team. In the interests of safety it becomes the responsibility of players not involved in the pile to quickly determine who has recovered the fumble and to stop play as soon as possible. As per regular football rules, joint-possesion of a fumble (or pass) is awarded to the offense.

Last updated: Jan.29.2018

The neutral zone

The neutral zone before the snap is the width of the ball, and only the ball and the center's hands may be in the neutral zone. At the snap, the neutral zone is extended downfield by the length of a player's arm.

OFL field dimensions
Neutral zone

Defensive players may contact offensive players with hands (chucking receivers; fending off potential run-block) but cannot cross through the neutral zone (with their feet) and move into the backfield unless:

  1. After a four Mississippi count
  2. A blitz has been called
  3. A fumble
  4. The QB no longer has ball in hand
  5. Offensive players are blocking with feet into or past the neutral zone

Likewise, offensive players can make contact with defenders in the neutral zone with hands, but cannot maintain contact with their feet in or past the neutral zone on a forward pass, before another player has touched the ball. Ineligibles cannot move past the neutral zone on a forward pass until the ball (or punt) has crossed over the neutral zone.

Note, there is no pass interference for passes that do not cross past the neutral zone, offensive or defensive, or for deflected balls.

If a forward pass is thrown across the neutral zone, offensives can actively chuck defenses across the neutral zone and then block in their own backfield, but may not block a defender with feet in or past the neutral zone.

If a backward pass, handoff or other running play, the offense can immediately contact defenders and block them downfield, while defenders can actively shed blocks and cross into the neutral zone if the offensive linemen step into or through the neutral zone.

Last updated: Jan.29.2018

Offsides

Offensive or defensive players who've been drawn offsides can retreat back across the neutral zone and re-set while the play continues without penalty unless they've made contact with an opposing player, in which case play should stop, and a 4-yard penalty assessed (there is no continuation of play or advantage given, as in rugby).

Assuming no contact, if the offsides player does not re-set, either an illegal blitz or offensive offsides will be called resulting in an 8-yard penalty and the re-playing of the down (or non-offending team may accept the result of the play).

Last updated: Sep.10.2021

Team captains

Each team has a team captain. The two captains will confer with each other and the Commissioner on controversial situations. If the two captains cannot agree on a course of action, the Commissioner will rule on the play.

Last updated: Jan.29.2018

Uniforms and equipment

Players need to wear black or gold to distinguish what team they're on. I bring a big bag of black and gold scrimmage vests each week, plus we periodically get official OFL jerseys made up for regulars that want 'em.

I highly recommend cleats. (NOTE: Baseball cleats with metal spikes are not allowed. Everything else is cool.)

Last updated: Jan.29.2018

Uneven teams

In the event that teams have unequal numbers the following rules apply:

  • Last player to arrive at the field will switch teams at the half
  • Teams flip for who has the extra player in the first half (winner of toss decides)
  • Linemen on the team with the extra player may not receive any forward pass, even if behind the line of scrimmage
  • The team with the extra player must send in enough extra blitzers so as to expose the exact number of defenders against the exact number of eligible receivers (five, maximum). All blitzers must cross over the netural zone with their feet
  • The quarterback on the team with the extra player may not cross the line of scrimmage
  • The team with the extra player may only only throw one forward pass per play

Last updated: Jan.29.2018

The "X-Point" play

At the end of a game, if one team is losing by more than 8 points, that team is allowed a single "X-point play" to tie the game. If the team has been stopped from advancing, The X-point play will be a final "Hail Mary" pass (i.e. a "fifth down") from the line of scrimmage. If on their final drive they have scored a touchdown, the X-point play will be a conversion attempt, 3 yards from the goal line. In either case, the X-point play is worth however many points it takes to tie the game.

In playoff games, a tie sends the game to sudden death overtime. If an X-point play was used to tie the game, the team previously in the lead is given the choice of initial possession or side of the field.

Last updated: Feb.01.2020