Philadelphia Eagles News

Football 101: What Is Illegal Contact?

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In this feature, Football 101, NFL officials help explain and clarify some of the rules that impact the game. This week, umpire Tony Steratore breaks down what constitutes illegal contact:

Summary from the Official NFL Rule Book - Rule 8, Section 4, Articles 2, 3, 4

Rule number 8 in the NFL Rule Book **addresses a number of rules that have to do with the forward pass. According to the Rule Book, here are the three rules that constitute, or don't constitute, illegal contact:

Article 2: Illegal Contact Within Five Yards
Within the five-yard zone, if the player who receives the snap remains in the pocket with the ball, a defender may not make original contact in the back of a receiver, nor may he maintain contact after the receiver has moved beyond a point that is even with the defender.

Article 3: Illegal Contact Beyond Five-Yard Zone
Beyond the five-yard zone, if the player who receives the snap remains in the pocket with the ball, a defender cannot initiate contact with a receiver who is attempting to evade him. A defender may use his hands or arms only to defend or protect himself against impending contact caused by a receiver.

Article 4: Incidental Contact Beyond Five-Yard Zone
Beyond the five-yard zone, incidental contact may exist between receiver and defender.

The Official Point of View

"Illegal contact is different than defensive pass interference in that it can only occur before the pass is thrown," Steratore explained. "You can not have illegal contact once the ball is in the air."

"The parameters for illegal contact," he continued, "would have to be initiated by the defense beyond five yards. The only time you can have illegal contact within five yards is if the defender chucks the receiver in the back or a second chuck. One defender can't chuck a receiver at two yards, separate, and chuck him again at four yards, because that would also be illegal contact.

"So the basic standard of illegal contact would be contact beyond five yards with the quarterback still in the pocket. If the quarterback has rolled out at the time that the illegal contact occurs, the illegal contact would be waived off."

Last week, umpire Tony Steratore and back judge Tony Michalek explained what was necessary to make a catch.

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