Terminology: Neutral Zone

13 Oct

The neutral zone is a no-man’s land.  It is the DMZ formed by the two lines of scrimmage that intersect each end of the ball when it is made ready for play.  It’s as wide as the ball is long.

There are two kinds of neutral zone violations: offside and encroachment.

Encroachment is an offensive penalty.  It’s when an offensive player is in or beyond the neutral zone after the Center “touches or simulates touching” the ball before the snap.  The Center is the only player allowed in the neutral zone.

Offside is a defensive penalty.  It occurs when a defensive player is: 

  • in or beyond the neutral zone when the ball is snapped,
  • contacts the ball before it is snapped,
  • threatens a lineman who reacts before the ball is snapped,
  • or is not behind his restraining line when the ball is free-kicked like on a kick-off.
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