I always thought a football field was pretty straight forward stuff. I mean 100 yards, two end zones, boundaries also known as sidelines and endlines….that’s not really complicated stuff. But there are some basic facts surrounding the field of play that can help you better understand the game. I’m going to dissect a few of those today.
The field is 100 yards (360 feet) long and 53 1/2 (160) feet wide. Endlines and sidelines mark the boundaries that define the playing field. Goal lines run parallel to endlines and are 10 yards inside the endlines. If a player crosses his opponents goal line with the football, he scores a touchdown. If a player crosses the endline with the football, he has gone out of bounds. One distinction concerning whether a play is marked in bounds or judged to be out of bounds should be discussed here. In the NFL (National Football League), a player who catches the ball near the sideline or endline must come down with both feet inside the boundary of the field of play and have possession of the football in order for the catch to be considered “fair.” In college and high school play, a player can have a fair catch as long as one foot comes down completely within the field of play.
There are two rows of short lines near the center of the field. These are called hash marks, each representing one yard. Every fifth yard has a line that runs across the full field, and every tenth yard is marked by a number painted on the field near the sideline. If the ball carrier is pushed out of bounds or tackled, or a punt goes out of bounds, the ball is placed on the closest hash mark. The hash marks are a good tool in ensuring that more of the field is available for most offensive plays. If balls were placed near the sideline after an out-of-bounds play, the offense might be restricted the that side of the field on the subsequent offensive play.
There is a six foot border behind the sidelines where only the chain crew (the people who measure plays to determine the correct number of downs) and officials are allowed. Behind that area is another six foot area defined by dotted lines. This area is reserved for coaches and substitute players. Behind this area is the bench area, which stretches between 32 yard lines in the NFL and between 25 yard lines in college and high school play. In the NFL, the bench area is at least 30 feet deep.
I realize that not everyone is interested in some of these little factoids like I am, so with my next blog, we will start to meet the cast and learn a little about what roles they play on the field.