What Is a False Start In Football?

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What Is a False Start In American Football?

In American football, a false start is a penalty when a player moves prematurely before the ball is snapped. This typically happens when a player jumps or jostles to gain an advantage over the defenders. False starts can also occur if a player makes any sudden movement that causes the offensive linemen to move.

False start penalties are usually 5 yards and a replay of the down. They often happen when players try to beat the snap count when the quarterback calls for the ball to be snapped. Beating the snap count is legal but often leads to false start penalties.

What Is a Snap Count In Football?

In football, the snap count is the number of seconds that elapse between the center snapping the ball and the quarterback receiving it. The snap count is typically used to gauge the amount of time the offensive line has to block for the quarterback and how long the quarterback has to decide on what play to run.

The snap count can also be used as a way to catch the defense off-guard. If the offense changes its snap count, it can confuse the defense and give the quarterback a few extra seconds to make a decision or even get a quick pass off before the defense can react.

The snap count can also be used as a way to tempo the game. If the offense wants to play at a faster pace, it can use a quicker snap count. Conversely, if the offense wants to slow things down and take more time to develop a play, it can use a slower snap count.


One way for a false start to occur is if an offensive lineman moves before the snap of the ball. Another way is if an offensive player makes a sudden movement that causes the defense to think the play has started. Also, if an offensive player yells or makes any loud noise before the snap, it will also result in a false start penalty.

False start penalties are often called on running plays, as offensive linemen sometimes try to get a head start. However, they can also occur on passing plays, as offensive players sometimes try to jump the snap to get a head start on the route.

How a False Start Hurts Your Team

A false start can be extremely costly to a team, as it often results in a loss of yardage and momentum. In addition, it can disrupt the play’s timing and give the defense an advantage.

Three Ways To Avoid a False Start Penalty

There are a few key things to remember in order to avoid a false start penalty:

  • Be aware of your surroundings and who else is moving on the field
  • Remain calm and focused before the snap, as most false starts are caused by being over anxious
  • Communicate with your teammates and make sure all players on both teams remain still until the new play is underway
  • Make sure all players are aware of the snap count


A false start in football is when an offensive player moves before the snap of the ball. This can be called on any player on the offense, including the quarterback, running back, wide receiver, or tight end. And it can end up being costly for the committing team.