- A live ball is always in possession of a team.
- A live ball is in player possession or is loose.
- A loose ball is in possession of the team whose player was last in possession.
- A player in possession of a live ball is a runner.
- A player cannot fumble before gaining possession.
- No foul causes loss of the ball.
- After a distance penalty, the ball belongs to the team which was in possession at the time of the foul according to applicable rules. Team possession may then change if a new series is awarded.
- Possession of a live ball in the opponent’s end zone is always a touchdown.
- A down begins when the ball becomes live and ends when it becomes dead.
- Whether the next down will be first is determined at the time the ball becomes dead and after considering the effect of any act, except a nonplayer or unsportsmanlike foul, which occurred during the down.
- If R is first to touch a scrimmage kick beyond the neutral zone, a new series will be awarded the team in possession at end of the down, unless there was a foul before the kick and the penalty was accepted, or there was a double foul or there was an inadvertent whistle during the kick following the touching by R.
- The only defensive fouls which automatically cause a first down are roughing the kicker or place-kick holder, roughing the passer and roughing the snapper.
- If the penalty is accepted for any live ball foul by either team during a down in which time expires. The period must be extended by an untimed down, except for unsportsmanlike fouls, nonplayer fouls, fouls that specify a loss of down, or fouls as specified in Rule 3-3-4.
- No series can ever start on a down other than first.
III. DEAD BALL
- An official’s whistle seldom kills the ball. It is already dead by rule.
- No live-ball foul causes the ball to become dead.
- A dead ball may become live only by a legal snap or free kick.
- Catching is always preceded by touching of the ball; thus, if touching causes the ball to become dead, securing possession of the ball has no significance.
IV. KICKS - GENERAL
- A kick always ends as soon as any player secures possession.
- Any R player may catch or recover a kick and advance unless a valid or invalid fair catch signal has been given by any R player.
- If a legal kick is caught in or beyond the neutral zone to R’s goal line on a free kick and beyond the neutral zone to R’s goal line on a scrimmage kick by a receiver after he has signaled for a fair catch, it is a fair catch and the ball becomes dead as soon as it is caught.
- A fair catch may be made of any free kick which is in or beyond the neutral zone to R’s goal line or a scrimmage kick which is beyond the neutral zone to R’s goal.
- Any kick which is not a scoring attempt becomes dead when it breaks the plane of R’s goal line.
- No kick may legally be batted unless it is an attempt to block the kick in or behind the neutral zone, or if a grounded scrimmage kick which is beyond the neutral zone is batted by K toward his own goal line, or if a scrimmage kick in flight beyond the neutral zone is batted by K toward his own goal line or caught by K when no player of R is in position to catch the ball.
- First touching of a kick by K is always ignored if the penalty is accepted for a foul during the down.
V. FREE KICKS
- The rules for the three free kicks are the same. Exception: a kickoff or a free kick following a safety cannot score a field goal.
- Free-kick lines are always 10 yards apart.
- A free kick is not repeated unless a foul occurs prior to change of possession and the penalty acceptance requires a replay of the down or there was a double foul.
VI. SCRIMMAGE KICKS
- Touching of a low scrimmage kick by any player is ignored if it occurs in or behind the expanded neutral zone. Such touching may cause the ball to go out of bounds.
- A scrimmage kick recovered in or behind the neutral zone may be advanced by K or R unless it is during a try.
- A player who is eligible at the start of the down remains eligible throughout the down.
- Offensive interior linemen are prohibited from advancing beyond the neutral zone only during a forward pass which crosses the neutral zone, but may advance after the pass is in flight.
- A handed ball is not a pass.
- Any pass in flight may be batted in any direction by an eligible receiver unless it is a backward pass batted forward by the passing team.
- A forward-pass interference foul can occur only beyond the neutral zone.
- Blocking by either team is permissible, unless it is kick-catching interference or pass interference, a personal foul or an illegal block.
- No live-ball foul causes the covering official to sound his whistle immediately.
- A live-ball foul followed by a foul by the opponents after the ball becomes dead is not paired as a double foul.
- It is a foul to bat any loose ball which has touched the ground, except K may bat a grounded scrimmage kick which is beyond the neutral zone toward his own goal line and may bat a scrimmage kick in flight beyond the neutral zone toward his own goal line when no player of R is in position to catch the ball.
- A foul during a try is not paired with a dead-ball foul to make a double or multiple foul.
- A double foul results only when both teams commit fouls, other than nonplayer or unsportsmanlike during the same live-ball period or if team possession changed during the down and the foul by the team in final possession was prior to the change or if there were a change of possession and the team in final possession accepted the penalty for its opponent’s foul.
- While it is possible to have several running plays during a down, with each one having its own basic spot of enforcement (where the related run ended), there can only be one loose-ball play during a down.
X. PENALTY MEASUREMENT
- The distance penalty for any foul may be declined.
- Penalties are either 5, 10 or 15 yards.
- Any live-ball foul is penalized according to the all-but-one enforcement principle except:
- Fouls which occur simultaneously with the snap.
- A foul by the opponents of the scoring team during a successful try, field goal or touchdown when the score is accepted.
- A nonplayer or unsportsmanlike foul.
- Roughing the passer when the dead ball spot is beyond the neutral zone and there has been no change of team possession.
- Kick-catching interference when the offended team does not accept a penalty of 15 yards from the spot of the foul
- Penalty enforcement for any dead ball, nonplayer or unsportsmanlike foul is from the succeeding spot unless the foul occurs on a scoring play and the scoring team chooses enforcement on the kickoff per 8-2-2, 8-2-3, 8-2-4 or 8-2-5.
- The penalty for any one of the five illegal passes is a loss of 5 yards and the down is counted except for a forward pass following change of team possession.
- No penalty directly results in a safety, but if a distance penalty is enforced from behind the offender’s goal line toward his end line, it is a safety.
- The penalty for a live-ball foul by the defensive team is administered from the basic spot, except when that spot is in the end zone.
- The loss of down aspect of a penalty has no significance following a change of possession or if the line to gain is reached after enforcement.