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FOOTBALL GLOSSARY

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Football Glossary

audible:
verbal commands shouted by the quarterback to his teammates at the line of scrimmage to change a play on short notice.

backfield:
the area behind the line of scrimmage.

backs:
the running backs; the halfback and the fullback.

ball carrier:
any player who has possession of the ball.

blocking:
the act of preventing a defensive player from getting to the ball carrier; blockers use their arms and bodies but may not hold an opponent.

bomb:
a long pass thrown to a receiver sprinting down the field.

bump-and-run:
a technique used by pass defenders, where they hit a receiver once within 5 yards (1 yard in college) of the line of scrimmage to slow him down, and then follow him to prevent him from catching a pass.

call a play:
instruct players to execute a pre-planned play.

cut back:
a sudden change in direction taken by a to make it more difficult for defenders to follow and tackle him.

down:
one of 4 chances a team on offense has to gain 10 yards; also, the state of a player who has just been tackled; also, a ball that a player touches to the ground in the end zone to get a touchback.

draft choice:
a player chosen by a professional sports team from a pool of college players in an annual draft.

drive:
the series of plays a team puts together in an attempt to score.

drop back:
when a quarterback, after taking the snap, takes a few steps backward into an area called the pocket to get ready to pass.

encroachment:
if a player (besides the center) is in the neutral zone and contact occurs prior to the snap; a foul punishable by a 5-yard penalty.

end line:
the boundary line that runs the width of the field along each end.

end zone:
the area between the end line and goal line bounded by the sidelines, which a team on offense tries to enter to score a touchdown.

extra point(s):
additional point(s) scored by a team after it has scored a touchdown, either by a point-after-touchdown (1 point) or a 2-point conversion (2 points).

fair catch:
when a kick returner decides only to catch a punt or kickoff and not advance it, protecting himself from being hit by an opponent; he signals for a fair catch by raising one hand in the air and waving it.

field goal:
a place kick that passes above the crossbar and between the uprights of the goalpost, earning the team that kicked it 3 points.

field position:
the location of a team on the field relative to the two goal lines; good field position for a team is near its opponent’s goal line, while bad field position is close to its own goal line.

first down:
the first chance out of 4 that a team on offense has to advance 10 yards down the field; as soon as it gains those yards, it earns a new first down.

forward pass:
a pass thrown by a team closer to the opponent’s goal line; a team is allowed to throw only one forward pass per play, and it must be thrown from behind the team’s line of scrimmage.

forward progress:
the location to which a ball carrier has advanced the ball, even if he was pushed backwards after getting there.

free kick:
a type of kick taken to start or restart play after a team has scored, with no defenders nearer than 10 yards away; includes a kickoff and a kick after a safety.

fumble:
when a ball carrier loses possession by dropping the ball or having it knocked away before a play ends; the first player to regain possession of the loose ball is said to make the recovery, and his team becomes the offense.

goal line:
a line drawn across the width of the field, 10 yards inside each end line, which a team must cross with the ball to score a touchdown.

goalpost:
a tall metallic structure that stands at the back of each end zone; consists of a crossbar and two uprights that extend upward from it, supported directly above the end line by a base; teams try to kick the ball above the crossbar and between the uprights to score a field goal or extra point.

Heisman Trophy:
an award presented annually by the Downtown Athletic Club of New York to the best college football player in the country.

holding:
a foul where a player impedes the movement of an opponent by grasping or hooking any part of his body or uniform; punishable by a penalty — 10 yards if against the offense, 5 yards (10 yards in college) plus a first down if against the defense.

home field advantage:
the benefit a team gets by playing games in the area where it is based, due to fan support, familiarity with its surroundings and the lack of required travel.

Incomplete pass:
a forward pass that touches the ground before being caught.

intentional grounding:
a foul called against a quarterback who purposely throws an incomplete forward pass solely to avoid a sack; cannot be called if the pass lands at or beyond the line of scrimmage.

interception:
a pass caught in the air (picked off) by a defender whose team immediately gains possession of the ball and becomes the offense.

kickoff:
when a player kicks a ball from a tee at his own 30-yard line (35 in college) to the opposing team, whose player tries to advance it the other way; used to start the game, the second half and overtime, and to restart play after each score.

lateral:
a pass thrown to a teammate backwards from the team’s line of scrimmage or parallel to it; unlike a forward pass (which can be thrown only once per play), players may lateral the ball as often as they want.

line of scrimmage:
an imaginary line which no player may cross before the snap; each team has its own line of scrimmage, separated by the neutral zone.

loose ball:
a ball that is not in possession of either team, such as after a fumble or a kickoff; it can be recovered by either team.

man-in-motion:
a single player on the offense who is permitted to move prior to the snap; he may only run parallel to the line of scrimmage or away from it.

midfield:
the 50-yard line, which divides the length of the field in half.

neutral zone:
the region that contains the ball as it sits on the ground before each play; the area between the two lines of scrimmage.

NFL (National Football League):
the major professional football league in the U.S. with 32 teams; its headquarters are in New York.

NFL Championship:
the game held from 1933 through 1965 to decide the champion of professional football; renamed the Super Bowl in 1966.

nickel defense:
when a defense brings in a 5th defensive back to replace a linebacker on the field, increasing its pass coverage.

offside:
when any part of a player’s body is beyond his line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped; a foul punishable by a 5-yard penalty.

pass defender:
a defensive player who covers an opposing receiver.

pass protection:
blocking by offensive players to keep defenders away from the quarterback on passing plays.

pass rush:
a surge by defenders to get past blockers and sack the quarterback.

personal foul:
a foul that might cause injury; punishable by a 15-yard penalty.

picked off:
intercepted.

play:
a spurt of action that begins with a snap and ends with a dead ball.

play clock:
a clock displayed above each end zone that limits the time teams may take between plays to 40 seconds (30 in college); the ball must be snapped before the clock runs down to 0.

play-action pass:
a passing play after the quarterback has faked a hand-off.

playoffs:
the post-season tournament that determines the NFL champion.

possession:
to be holding or in control of the football.

punt:
when a player 10 yards behind the center catches a snap, drops it and kicks it before it hits the ground; an opponent tries to catch and advance it the other way.

quarterback:
the leader of a team’s offense, he takes the snap from the center and either hands the ball to a running back to run with, passes it to a receiver or runs with it himself; he also communicates each play to his teammates.

reading the defense:
recognition by the quarterback of the defensive formation; he may then call an audible to adjust the offense.

receiver:
an offensive player who catches or attempts to catch a forward pass.

red zone:
the imaginary area between the defense's 20-yard line and its goal line from which the offense is most likely to score points.

return:
an attempt by a player who has just caught an interception, punt, or kickoff to advance the ball the other way.

rush:
a running play; also, a pass rush.

sack:
a tackle of the quarterback behind his line of scrimmage.

safety:
when a ball carrier is tackled in his own end zone after bringing the ball there under his own power; the defense earns 2 points and receives a free kick from the offense’s own 20-yard line.

scrambling:
evasive movements by a quarterback to avoid being sacked.

snap:
when the center while facing forward quickly hands the ball between his legs to a player standing behind him (usually the quarterback) to start each play.

special teams:
the group of players who participate in kicking plays.

spike:
when a player throws the ball at the ground to celebrate a touchdown.

Super Bowl:
the championship game of the NFL, played between the champions of the AFC and NFC at a neutral site each January; it is the culmination of the NFL playoffs.

tackle:
a player position on both the offensive and defensive lines; there is usually a left and right offensive tackle, and a left and right defensive tackle; See also tackling.

tackling:
contacting a ball carrier to cause him to touch the ground with any part of his body except his hands, thereby ending the play.

touchback:
when a player who gains possession of a ball in his own end zone kneels to the ground and automatically starts the next play at his own 20-yard line; also awarded if his opponent kicks the ball across the end line.

touchdown (TD):
when a team crosses the opponent’s goal line with the ball, catches a pass in the opponent’s end zone, or recovers a loose ball in the opponent’s end zone; earns a team 6 points.

turnover:
the involuntary loss of possession of the ball during a play, either by a fumble or by throwing an interception.

2-point conversion:
when a team that just scored a touchdown starts a play at the opponent’s 2-yard line (3-yard line in college) and crosses the goal line to earn 2 points; when successful, it looks just like a touchdown; introduced to the NFL in 1994.

 

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