What is a False Start in Football?

During an NFL or college football game, there are a variety of penalties that can occur. You might wonder why some penalties seem similar but result in different outcomes, such as false starts, neutral zone infractions, and offsides. In some cases, penalties are against the offense, while in others, they are against the defense.

What is a False Start in American Football?

A false start occurs when an offensive player charges towards the line of scrimmage or makes an abrupt movement before snapping that simulates the beginning of the play. It is only possible for a false start to occur after the players have taken their set positions and before the snap.

Any movement by offensive linemen can result in a false start. Players are not allowed to move forward along the line of scrimmage. A false start can be caused by simply shifting their feet a little bit.

The rule is most likely to be applied to an offensive lineman in order to prevent the offensive line from unfairly causing a defensive lineman to be offside. This rule aims to prevent the offense from gaining an unfair advantage over the defense at the beginning of the play. Regardless of whether the defense reacts to the offense’s false start, the penalty still applies.

What is the Penalty for a False Start?

False starts are infractions that result in penalties. A false start penalty is a five-yard penalty assessed to the offensive team for simulating the start of play or pushing the defense offside. Play is immediately dead, and the offensive team must replay the down.

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

A five-yard penalty is assessed for both offsides and false starts. Unlike a false start penalty, a false start penalty terminates the play immediately. In order to protect the quarterback from potential injury, the play becomes dead. On a play that should be over, you wouldn’t want a defensive player to sprint and tackle the quarterback.

False starts are usually called on offensive players, while offsides penalties are usually called on defensive players. A defensive player can receive a false start penalty, just under a different name.

What is a False Start on Defense?

The offensive team is penalized for a false start, not the defensive team. When a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage before the snap, it’s a neutral zone infraction. Because the offensive player did not initiate the movement, it won’t be a false start if the defensive player causes the offensive player to move before the snap.

The defense is penalized five yards for a neutral zone infraction. This foul occurs before the start of a play and before the snap.

How Does a Quarterback Get a False Start?

Before the snap, the quarterback can move more than other players. While they can move around and call out signals to their team, they must not make abrupt movements that seem like the play has already begun. Their restricted abrupt movements include moving their feet or shoulders quickly, moving their heads up and down rapidly, or thrusting out their arms and hands.

It would be a false start on the QB if they made any of these sudden movements that falsely simulate a snap. Before receiving the ball on a hike, the quarterback must stop for a full second after any movement.

Can a Running Back Get a False Start?

False starts can also happen to offensive backfield players, such as running backs. Running backs might trigger a false start if they change their stance after taking their set position or moving suddenly.


Basically, a false start penalty occurs when an offensive player makes a sudden movement before a snap. When this call occurs, the offensive team receives a five-yard penalty. The quarterback, running back, or any offensive player can make a false start before the snap.

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