NFL Rules for "Man in Motion"

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Perhaps you've been watching a football game, and you've seen an offensive player move from one side of the field to the other, or you've seen a running back leave his position behind the quarterback and split out to a wide receiver position. These acts are all governed by the NFL rules for "Man in Motion."

Definition of Motion

  • Motion is the term used to refer to any offensive player who is moving before the ball is snapped and the play begins. The person moving is referred to as the "Man in Motion."

Legal Uses of Motion

  • Any offensive player who is not on the line of scrimmage is allowed to change positions in this way, meaning that running backs, the quarterback and, in some cases, wide receivers and tight ends are allowed to move under the NFL Rules for "Man in Motion." They must arrive at their new destination and be set for one for second before the snap.

Illegal Uses of Motion

  • However, offensive linemen who are already set in their stance and receivers who are on the line of scrimmage may not go into motion under league rules. A team is penalized if an ineligible player moves, more than one player goes into motion at the same time, the player moves towards the line of scrimmage or if they are not in the set position long enough before the start of the play.

Penalties

  • If the NFL rules for "Man in Motion" are violated on a play, the referee will call a penalty. Depending upon the circumstance, the penalty can be for illegal motion, a false start, failure to pause for one second after shift or more than one man in motion at snap. All of these result in a 5-yard loss for the offense.

Motion Rules and the Pro Bowl

  • While most National Football League games allow the use of motion, there is one notable exception: the Pro Bowl. Players are prohibited from going into motion during this season-ending all-star game between the AFC and NFC.

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