Penalty: Offsides or Illegal Procedure?

Be ahead of the call

From what I’ve been told, there is something just a bit sexy about a girl who calls the penalty before the referee announces it. It shows she is not only paying attention to the game but knows a little something too.

But did you know most penalties can be ‘guessed’  based on the timing of the flag being thrown and where it is thrown? Through the course of this season, we will highlight some of these for you. Here is a list of the most common penalties and their definitions for your reference.

Let’s start with how to tell the difference between two very common penalties: offsides on the defense or some form of illegal procedure on the offense.

When is this penalty called?

Offsides and Illegal Procedure penalties are called right at the beginning of a play, essentially right as the ball is snapped.

Where is the penalty flag thrown?

The flag is thrown towards the offensive and defensive line (the really big guys that are squatted down close to the ball before it is snapped).

How do you tell the difference between offsides and illegal procedure?

If the penalty is on the offense for some form of illegal procedure (illegal formation or false start), then the referee will blow the whistle and stop the play. If the penalty is on the defense for offsides, the play will continue until it reaches its natural conclusion (somebody is tackled, runs out of bounds, incomplete pass, etc.).

That’s it. That’s how you know the difference. Play stops – penalty is on the offense. Play continues – penalty is on the defense. In fact, if you want to look really sexy, if play is not stopped after the flag is thrown at the beginning of the play, then shout out, “Free play!”

At the end of the play, if it was an offsides penalty on the defense, the offense will get to choose the penalty (5 yards and repeat down) or choose the results of the ‘free play’. If they gained more than 5 yards, they will want to keep that instead. A savvy quarterback will notice the offsides and may just try to launch a long pass far down the field since he gets a do-over if anything goes wrong. Nothing to lose!

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