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Encyclopedia > Eligible receiver

In American football and Canadian football, not all players on offense are entitled to receive a forward pass. Only an eligible pass receiver may legally catch a forward pass, and they may not advance beyond the neutral zone if a forward pass which crosses the neutral zone is thrown. If the pass is received by a non-eligible receiver, the penalty for the foul "illegal touching" is assessed (the play is treated as an incomplete pass, unless the ball is downed behind the line of scrimmage — in either case a down is lost). If an ineligible receiver is beyond the neutral zone when a forward pass which crosses the neutral zone is thrown, a foul of "ineligible receiver downfield" (penalty--a loss of yardage, but not loss of down) is called. Each league has slightly different rules regarding who is and is not considered an eligible receiver. United States simply as football, is a competitive team sport that is both fast-paced and strategic. ... Diagram of a Canadian football field. ... This article is about a type of football play. ... In American and Canadian football, a down refers to a period in which a play transpires. ...


College football

The NCAA rulebook defines eligible receivers for college football in Rule 7, Section 3, Article 3[1]. The determining factors are the player's position on the field at the snap and their jersey number. Specifically, any players on offense wearing numbers between 50 and 79 are always ineligible. All defensive players are eligible receivers and offensive players who are not wearing an ineligible number are eligible receivers if they meet one of the following three criteria: The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA, often pronounced N-C-Double-A or N-C-Two-A ) is a voluntary association of about 1,200 institutions, conferences, organizations and individuals that organizes the athletic programs of many colleges and universities in the United States. ... A college football game between Colorado State and Air Force. ...

  • Player is at either end of the group of players on the line of scrimmage (usually the split end and tight end)
  • Player is lined up at least one yard behind the line of scrimmage (running backs, fullbacks, etc.)
  • Player is positioned to receive a hand-to-hand snap from the center (almost always the quarterback)

A receiver loses his eligibility by leaving the field of play unless he was forced out by a defensive player and immediately attempts to get back inbounds (Rule 7-3-4). All players on the field become eligible as soon as the ball is touched by a defensive player or an official during play (Rule 7-3-5). The wide receiver (WR) position in American and Canadian football is the pass-catching specialist. ... The tight end (TE) is a position in American football on the offensive team. ... P.J. Daniels was a star running back for Georgia Tech from 2002-2005. ... In American football, a fullback (FB) is a position in the offensive backfield. ... A diagram showing typical football positions In American football, each team has 11 players on the field at one time. ... Navy quarterback Aaron Polanco sets up to throw. ...

Professional football

In both American and Canadian professional football, every player on the defensive team is considered eligible. The offensive team must have at least seven players lined up on the line of scrimmage. Of the players on the line of scrimmage, only the two players on the ends of the line of scrimmage are eligible receivers. The four remaining players in the backfield (five in Canadian football), including the quarterback, are also eligible receivers—except in the National Football League, where a quarterback who takes the snap directly from the center is never eligible. However, a quarterback who receives a longer snap from the center, such as in a shotgun formation, is eligible even in the NFL. Navy quarterback Aaron Polanco sets up to throw. ... NFL redirects here. ... A typical Shotgun formation -- many variables can be implemented, but this is the basic setup many teams use The shotgun formation is a formation used by the offensive team in American and Canadian football. ...

With the assignment of numbers to positions, a player who is not wearing a number that corresponds to an eligible receiver is not eligible even if he lines up in an eligible position. However, in the American game, a person who reports to the referee that he will be eligible on the play is allowed to line up and act as an eligible receiver. An example of this was a 1985 NFL game in which William Perry, wearing number 72 and normally a defensive lineman, was made an eligible receiver on an offensive play, and successfully caught a touchdown pass attempt. A referee is a person who has authority to make decisions about play in many sports. ... William Perry (born December 16, 1962 in Aiken, South Carolina) is a former professional football player and brother of former professional football player Michael Dean Perry. ...

If, for example, eight men line up on the line of scrimmage, the team loses an eligible receiver. This can often happen when a flanker or slot receiver, who is supposed to line up behind the line of scrimmage, instead lines up on the line of scrimmage between the offensive line and a split end. In most cases where a pass is caught by an ineligible receiver, it is usually because the quarterback was under pressure and threw it to an offensive lineman out of desperation. The wide receiver (WR) position in American and Canadian football is the pass-catching specialist. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with American football. ... The wide receiver (WR) position in American and Canadian football is the pass-catching specialist. ... An offensive lineman (football) is one of a group of positions in American football. ...

Before the snap of the ball, in the American game, eligible receivers may only move parallel to the line of scrimmage, only one eligible receiver may be in motion at any given time, and if forward motion has occurred, the receiver must be still for a full second before the snap. The receiver may be in motion laterally or away from the line of scrimmage at the snap. A breach of this rule results in a penalty for illegal procedure (five yards). However, in the Canadian game, eligible receivers may move in any direction before the snap, any number may be in motion at any one time, and there is no need to be motionless before the snap.

The rules on eligible receivers only apply to forward passes, even those behind the line of scrimmage. However, any player may legally catch a backwards or lateral pass.

In the American game, once the play has started, players can become ineligible and eligible depending on how the play develops. Any eligible receiver that goes out of bounds is no longer an eligible receiver and cannot receive a forward pass. Also, if a pass is touched by any eligible receiver (tipped by a defensive lineman, slips through a receiver's hands, etc.), every player on the field immediately becomes eligible. These rules may also apply to the Canadian game, but are not verified.

See also

The following terms are used in American football and Canadian football. ...


  1. ^ 2006 NCAA Football Rules and Interpretations (PDF) (English). NCAA (July 2006). Retrieved on 2007-01-26.

  Results from FactBites:
NFL Rules (9383 words)
An eligible receiver is considered to be an obstructing opponent ONLY to a point five yards beyond the line of scrimmage unless the player who receives the snap clearly demonstrates no further intention to pass the ball.
Eligible receivers lined up within two yards of the tackle, whether on or immediately behind the line, may be blocked below the waist at or behind the line of scrimmage.
An eligible receiver who, at the snap, is aligned or in motion behind the line and more than one yard outside the end man on his side of the line, clearly making him the outside receiver, replaces that end man as the player eligible to go downfield after the snap.
  More results at FactBites »



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