There are a total of 53 players on an NFL roster. Out of those 53 players, 47 players are eligible to play during a football game. Out of that 47 players, only 11 can be on the field for the offense, defense, and special teams at any given time.
Here is the complete breakdown of how many players are on an NFL team, college team, and more!
How Many Players Are on an NFL Team During the Preseason?
Before the NFL season begins, teams have 90 players on the roster during preseason week 1. As each week goes by during the preseason, teams cut players to get down to the 53 active roster number. Organizations tend to have a few openings on their team before the regular season starts, so preseason football is similar to baseball spring training, allowing players to compete for a spot.
What Happens if a Team Has More than 11 Players on the Field?
A team can have more than 11 men on the field, but there can only be 11 during the offensive snap. If a team has more than 11 players on the field, you will see one or more players sprint to the sidelines before the offense snaps the ball. If the snap occurs and more than 11 defense players are on the field, the offense moves up 5 yards via the penalty
Having too many players on the field happens at times during a game. One of the reasons is if the offense changes from a special teams formation to an offense formation. The defense might try and quickly sub out players for defense players, which leads to confusion. This confusion might have more than 11 defense players on the field during the snap, leading to five free yards for the offense team.
There is no penalty if a team has less than 11 people on the field during a snap.
What Positions Make up the NFL Offense?
- Center: Hikes the ball to the quarterback and then proceeds to block the defensive line from getting to the QB
- Left Guard and Right Guard: Blocks the opposite team from crashing towards the QB
- Offensive Tackle (left and right): They line up next to the left and right guard and protect the QB’s blind spot from defensive players
- Quarterback: Calls the plays on the line, hears the play from the offensive coordinator with their helmet’s radio, receives the ball from the center, and passes/hands the ball off to another player
- Running backs (halfback and full back): They line up either to the side or behind the QB and will run with the ball on a handoff, block a defensive player, or run to receive a pass from the QB
- Wide Receivers: They line up closer to the sideline to get open for a pass from a QB or to block a defensive player during a running play
- Tight End: A mix between a wide receiver and an offensive line player. They can act as an extra blocker during a running play or even run short routes for passing.
What Positions Make up the Football Defense?
- Defensive tackles (2): They rush the QB to stop a pass from happening or chase after a running back who has the ball
- Defensive Ends (2): They cover the edge of the defensive line to stop a run
- Linebackers (OLB and MLB): They study the offense formation and can call/change the defense position on their team. The MLB (middle linebacker) has a radio connection to the defensive coordinator to hear and relay the plays to their teammates.
- Defensive Backs (2): They stand a bit back from the line of scrimmage for the defense.
- Cornerbacks (2): Lineup against the wide receiver to guard them during a passing play
- Safety: A strong safety / a free safety tend to play zone defense to follow the play and act as a last resort for the defense
What Positions Make up the Special Teams?
- Kicker: Kick field goals and kickoffs
- Holder: Holds the ball for the kicker / is the backup QB in case of an injury.
- Long Snapper: Snaps the ball to the holder or punter
- Punter: They kick the ball down the football field on a 4th down attempt
- Punt Returners / Kick Returners: They catch and run the ball towards the end zone during a punt or kickoff
- Gunners: These players run during the punt or kick down the field to stop the punt returner/kick returner from running the ball to the endzone for a touchdown
Can You Substitute Out NFL Players During a Game?
Similar to the NBA and NHL, NFL games allow substitutions between plays without complete removal. Sometimes you might see a running back go to the sidelines for a play or two after a long run. In that example, the backup running back will keep the eleven players on the field.
What about the NFL Practice Squad?
Every NFL team can have 16 players on the practice squad that doesn’t count against the 53 official players on their roster. Generally speaking, the 12 practice squad players are not good enough to play during the regular season, but they can join the official squad from an injury or trade that opens up the roster spots.
How Many Number of Players Are on a College Football Team?
Most college teams have close to 100 active players on the roster since there are no practice teams at the college level. That means that some of the players on the roster are for practice only. Having a lot of players on the sideline, especially Division 1 football, can be a byproduct of athletic scholarships. The cap for how many players can officially be on the team is 125.
How Many Players Can Be on Scholarship?
While there is no actual cap on how many players can be on the roster in the NCAA, there is a cap to athletic scholarships. For example, the NCAA Division 1 FBS only allows 85 scholarships. Division 2 teams can only have 36 players on scholarship.
How Many Numbers of Players Are on a High School Football Team?
High school football player numbers come down to how many players try out and the coach’s preference for their team. Generally speaking, you will find most high schools have around fifty players on the team, which is like the NFL.
How Many Players on a Youth Football Team?
As high school football, rosters size in youth leagues is a bit vague. The roster size comes down to who wants to play football and how many people try out for the team.
Conclusion: How Many Players are on a Football Team?
In summary, NFL teams have 53 active players on the roster, but college, high school, and youth leagues can have more. No matter how many players are on the official roster, only eleven players can play on offense and defense. Having more athletes on the sidelines allows coaches to sub in new offensive and defensive players, which is helpful if there is an injury during a game.
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