Special Feature: Thanksgiving Game Plan


Football for dummies

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Wednesday, November, 14 By Bill Burt
Sports editor

OK, so maybe you know the game is played with an egg-shaped ball on a green field emblazoned with a bunch of numbers, but how much do you really know about football?

Here's a primer for football game rookies and even some longtime fans who never really understood what the announcer was shouting about.

Wouldn't want to confuse your kickoffs with your field goals, now would you?

AFC The American Football Conference, one of two conferences that make up the National Football League. Each conference has 16 teams. The winners of each conference meet in the Super Bowl.

AUDIBLE When a quarterback walks up to the line of scrimmage, looks over the other team's defensive formation and decides to change the play, it is called an audible. The quarterback does this by hollering out a coded message for the new play.

BLITZ When the defensive team sends an additional player or players, other than its four linemen, to rush the opposing quarterback hoping to tackle him.

CADENCE This is when the quarterback on offense attempts to fake defensive players to jump offside over the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped. It is done by changing the count and inflection in his voice before the ball is centered to him.

CENTER Every play, except on kickoffs, starts with a snap of the ball by an offensive player backward between the player's legs. He is at the center position. This player, usually upward of 300 pounds, gives the ball to the quarterback and then blocks a defensive lineman.

CONVERSION After a touchdown is scored, the offensive team is awarded six points and then lines up at the 3-yard line for a conversion. It can kick for one point if the ball goes between the uprights. The team also can pass or run on one play and if it moves the ball over the goal line, the conversion is worth an extra two points.

CORNERBACK A defensive player, usually among the smaller on the field, who covers an offensive team player, called a wide receiver. The cornerbacks are touted as the best athletes on the field because of their combination of speed, athleticism and power.

COVER-2 This is a basic defense played in professional and college football in which a team places two safeties deep. This defense is predicated on not giving up the long pass.

DELAY OF GAME A 5-yard penalty called on the quarterback when more than 25 seconds tick off the play clock before the ball is hiked.

DRAW PLAY A deception play that begins by appearing the quarterback will pass. He goes straight back, then hands off to the running back.

FIELD GOAL When a team lines up to kick the ball, usually on fourth down, within 40 yards of the opposing goal post. If the kicked ball goes through the goal post uprights in the back of the end zone, it is worth three points for the team on offense. The longest professional field goal of all-time is 63 yards. Most successful kicks are under 40 yards.

FIRST-AND-GOAL When a team starts a series of downs inside the opponents' 10-yard line and has just four plays to score. "And goal" means there is no chance for a first down.

FIRST DOWN When a team moves the ball 10 yards or more from where a series starts. If a team starts on the 21-yard line, it must get to the 31 in four plays to earn a first down. If a team gets the necessary 10-plus yards, it reverts to first down.

FLEA-FLICKER This is a trick play when a running back takes the ball from the quarterback, runs two steps, and then pitches it back to the quarterback, who then throws a pass.

FULLBACK The fullback is usually the bigger, stronger running back on the offensive team. His primary duty is to block for the tailback, a quicker and faster runner.

FUMBLE When an offensive player loses grasp of the ball. If the team on defense recovers the ball, the defensive team keeps the ball and immediately becomes the offensive team. If the offensive team recovers its own fumble, it keeps the ball.

GO ROUTE When a receiver takes off from the line of scrimmage and never stops. Sometimes it is used by the offense to get defensive players out of an area on the field. Other times it is planned so that the quarterback has multiple choices of receivers to whom he can pass.

HASH MARK In the middle zone of the field are painted white dashes, or hash marks, separated equally by one yard each. Depending on where a player is tackled, the ball is placed by a game official at the nearest hash mark where a player holding the ball hit the ground.

HALFBACK OPTION This is a trick play that occurs after the quarterback hands off or pitches the ball to the running back, who runs laterally on the field (called rolling) and throws the ball.

H-BACK A new position created in the late 1980s, it is a hybrid of running back and a tight end. This player lines up in awkward formations and usually goes out for passes in the 5-yard to10-yard range. The H-back usually looks for an opening rather than running a specific pattern.

HEAD SLAP An illegal move in which an offensive or defensive player slaps the helmet or facemask of the opposition. Based on the severity of the slap, a team is penalized 5 or 15 yards.

HIKE (or HUT) The universal term used by most quarterbacks, instructing the center to give him the ball.

HUDDLE Before each play, the 11 players on the field meet in a circle called the huddle. The quarterback will tell the offensive players the play, the formation, and hike number or determined number 1 through 99 he will yell when he wants the center to snap the ball. The defensive team's captain also will call a defensive formation in a huddle while the offensive team is huddling.

I-FORMATION When two running backs on offense line up behind the quarterback, one behind the other.

ILLEGAL PROCEDURE This is a 5-yard penalty on an offensive player that moves forward before the ball is snapped to the quarterback.

INELIGIBLE RECEIVER If any of the five offensive linemen | the center, two tackles and two guards | go past the line of scrimmage before a pass is attempted, the offensive team receives a 5-yard penalty and loss of down. All other offensive players can catch a pass.

INTERCEPTION When a pass thrown by a quarterback on offense is caught by a player on defense.

KICKOFF The first play of every football game is the opening kickoff. It is also instituted at the beginning of the second half. After every touchdown or field goal, the scoring team kicks the ball back to the opposition.

LINEBACKER This is usually the key position for a defense. This player's job is to react to the offensive team's play. Attack a player running with the ball and cover a receiver on a passing play. On most teams the leading tackler is the middle linebacker, who lines up 10 feet behind his noseguard.

LINE OF SCRIMMAGE The spot on the field where a play begins.

NFC The National Football Conference. Like the AFC, there are 16 teams in three divisions. The NFC champion meets the AFC champ in the Super Bowl.

NOSE GUARD (or NOSE TACKLE) This defensive player usually lines up face-to-face with the opposing center. His job is to clog up the middle of the line so that the more athletic linebackers can make the tackles.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE This position is on the outside of the offensive guards. Most NFL tackles weigh 300-plus pounds, with quick feet.

OFFENSIVE GUARD This position means what it says. It is the position on both sides, left and right, of the center. They are supposed to block opposing players from grabbing their quarterback or runners. Most NFL guards are 300-plus pounds and are noted for their brute strength.

OFFSIDES This is a 5-yard penalty on the defensive team when a player moves over the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped on offense.

ONE-BACK SET This is when only one running back is lined up behind the quarterback. This is a common formation when the offensive team is in an obvious passing situation, third-down and long yardage to make another first down. A third wide receiver usually replaces the fullback.

ONSIDE KICK This happens on kickoffs, almost always at the end of a game when the kicking team is losing. The kick must roll at least 10 yards, after which the team recovering the ball gains possession.

PERSONAL FOUL This unsportsmanlike move gets a 15-yard penalty after a player deliberately attempts to hurt a player. One example is tackling a player already out-of-bounds.

PLAY-ACTION This is an offensive play in which the quarterback fakes the handoff to a running back, so as to freeze the linebackers who would come up to stop the run. If it works, there is usually open space about 10 yards downfield.

POCKET This is supposedly the "safe'' area right behind the quarterback during a passing play. If properly executed, the quarterback should have at least three seconds in the pocket to throw a pass.

POOCH KICK This is a short punt attempted by the offensive team. It usually comes when a team is too far away to attempt a field goal, but too close to boom a punt. The object is to have the ball stop close to the opponents' goal line.

PUNT When a team doesn't get the necessary 10 yards in its first three downs, this is the name of the play when it kicks the ball back to the opposition.

RED ZONE The area on the field from the 20-yard line to the goal line.

SACK When a player on defense tackles the quarterback for a loss in yardage.

SAFETY (1.) When a player on offense is tackled in the opponents' end zone. The team that makes the tackle is awarded two points.

SAFETY (2.) The name of the position for the player who is a defensive back that usually covers an area on the field (called a zone) rather than a potential pass receiver on the offensive team. The safety usually will help a cornerback covering a talented wide receiver or tight end.

SCRAMBLE When the quarterback has no receivers open to throw a pass to, he scrambles. He tries to buy time by running in different directions avoiding defensive rushers or attempts to run down field to gain yardage. Eventually he throws the ball or falls on it.

SCREEN PASS This is a deception play which starts out looking like a long pass attempt. The offensive linemen block for two seconds, allow the defensive players to rush forward, and then the quarterback throws a short pass behind the line of scrimmage to a running back. If the play works properly, it can gain a first down and possibly break open a touchdown run.

SPECIAL TEAMS Groups of 11 players on the field for one team for all plays involving kicking, punts or kickoffs. Most of the players on special teams are backups on offense and defense.

SPLIT FORMATION This is when the two running backs on offense line up side-by-side behind the quarterback. It is the usual formation for a running play.

STUNT Usually on passing downs, it's when a defensive player is lined up in one spot, but rushes the opposing quarterback in another spot. The key is to confuse the blocker, trying to get him to leave an area open for another rusher.

SUPER BOWL The championship game of the NFL, consisting of the champions of the AFC and NFC.

TIGHT END This player, typically sized at about 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, is both a blocker and an eligible receiver to catch a pass.

TOUCHDOWN Any play in which an offensive player crosses the defensive goal line with the possession of the ball. It is worth six points.

TURNOVER When the offensive team loses possession of the ball due to a fumble or interception.

TWO-MINUTE WARNING Automatic signal by officials who call a timeout with two minutes remaining in the second and fourth quarters.

WIDE RECEIVER Usually among the smallest but fastest players on the field, the receiver's job is to get open and catch passes thrown by the quarterback.

ZONE DEFENSE This is a defense often called in passing situations where the linebackers and defensive backs cover an area of the field rather than a particular player.

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