What is a False Start in Football?

what is a false start in football

There are a variety of penalties that can occur during an NFL or college football game. You might wonder why some penalties seem similar but result in different outcomes, such as a false start, a neutral zone infraction, and offsides. Some penalties are against the offense, while some are against the defense.


False starts are common penalties on football players, so it is essential to understand it. You probably don’t have an NFL rulebook on hand, so keep reading below for an in-depth breakdown of what a false start is in American football, why it is crucial, and how it differs from other penalties.


What is a False Start in American Football?

In football, a false start is when an offensive player charges towards the line of scrimmage or makes an abrupt movement pre-snap that simulates the beginning of the play. A false start can happen only after the players have taken their set position and before the snap.


For offensive linemen, any movement can result in a false start call. No forward movement along the line of scrimmage is allowed. Simply shuffling their feet a little bit can result in a false start.


The call is most likely to be made on an offensive lineman because the rule intends to prevent the offensive line from unfairly causing a defensive lineman to be offside. The rule intends to avoid the offense gaining an unfair advantage over the defense at the start of the play. Even if the defense does not react to the offense’s false start, the penalty occurs.


What is the Penalty for a False Start?

what is the penalty for a false start

A false start is an infraction that results in a penalty. The false start penalty is a five-yard penalty given to the offensive team for falsely simulating the start of play or pushing the defense offside. The play is immediately dead, and the offensive team must replay the down.


What is the Difference Between a False Start and Offsides Penalty?

what is the difference between a false start and offsides penalty


Both offsides and false start result in a five-yard penalty. The difference is that with a false start penalty, the play immediately is dead. The play becomes dead as a safety measure to protect the quarterback from potential injury. For example, you wouldn’t want a defensive player to sprint and tackle the QB on a play that should be over.


Offsides penalties are usually called on defensive players, while false starts are offensive players. However, a defensive player can get a false start penalty, just under a different name.


What is a False Start on Defense?

what is a false start on defense

A false start is a penalty on the offensive team, not on the defensive team. So, when a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage before the snap, it’s a neutral zone infraction. Even if the defensive player causes the offensive player to move before the snap, it won’t be a false start since the offensive player did not start the movement initially.


With a neutral zone infraction, a five-yard penalty occurs on the defense. The foul is occurs before the start of a play and pre-snap.


How Does a Quarterback Get a False Start?

how does a quarterback get a false start

The quarterback can have more movement than other players before the snap. They can move around and call out signals to their team, but they must not make any abrupt movements that seem like the play has started. These restricted abrupt movements include moving their feet or shoulders quickly, moving their head up and down quickly, or thrusting out their hands or arms.


If they were to make any of these sudden movements that falsely simulate a snap, a false start would occur on the QB. Also, after any movement, the quarterback must stop for a full second before receiving the ball on a hike.


Can a Running Back Get a False Start?

It is also possible for the offensive backfield players, such as a running back, to get a false start. If a running back changes its stance after taking its set position or sudden motion, it might trigger a false start.



So to summarize, a false start penalty occurs when an offensive player makes a sudden movement before a snap. The play is over when this call occurs, and the offensive team receives a five-yard penalty. A false start can occur on the quarterback, running back, or any offensive player before the snap.


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