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If a team has only ten players on the field for offense, are they still required to have seven on the line of scrimmage, or can they have four in the backfield?

  • I mean, this question is moot because a penalty will be called for not having the right number of players on the field 10 times out of 10. This won't ever be a problem in a real football game. – Steve-o169 Oct 2 at 12:54
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    @Steve-o169 - and you are wrong. – Coach-D Oct 9 at 14:13
  • @Coach-D So you're suggesting it's common for referees to miscount the total number of players on the field but still manage to count the number of players on the line of scrimmage? Do you have any sources to back up this apparent issue that referees can only count accurately to 7? – Steve-o169 Oct 9 at 14:37
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    @Steve-o169 - again, your next comment... wrong too. Maybe you should comment on areas that you understand. – Coach-D Oct 9 at 15:07
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    @Coach-D Since you claim to be a coach, perhaps it would be better to explain why I'm wrong rather than just asserting that I am wrong. If this is how you coach, then I doubt anyone actually knows what to do -- they just know they're doing something wrong. I was questioning you so how could my questions be wrong? – Steve-o169 Oct 9 at 15:11
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From the 2019 NFL rulebook the requirements of the offensive formation are given in Rule 7, Section 5, Article 1

ARTICLE 1. OFFENSIVE TEAM. The offensive team must be in compliance with the following at the snap:

(a) It must have seven or more players on the line (3-19)

(b) Eligible receivers must be on both ends of the line, and all of the players on the line between them must be ineligible receivers

(c) No player may be out of bounds

Portion (a) which specifies the number of players on the line has no conditionals whether for lack of players or any other situation. A formation with fewer players on the line should be charged as illegal and penalized.

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In laymen's terms you are perfectly fine playing with 10 players on offense and it happens quite often - by mistake - in all levels of football.

You need 7 players on the line - that's it. No lineman can catch the ball in the air from a snap. But you could just snap the ball in the backfield, pick it up and then do whatever.

To make this as clear as possible, the only rule as far as players on the field on offense in football is that you must have seven on the line of scrimmage (and in various leagues meet number guidelines for the eligible WRs - the end players on the line).

ILLEGAL FORMATION - The offensive team must be in compliance with the following at the snap: (a) It must have seven or more players on the line (3-19) Eligible receivers must be on both ends of the line, and all of the players on the line between them must be ineligible receivers.

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