Suppose that, in a football game, for whatever reason, one team wanted to prolong the game indefinitely and never reach an end.

Now, suppose they had the ball, say on the 25 yard line, then they would start jumping offside, making a false start which they would be penalized 5 yards for, and the down would remain the same.

They would keep going backwards, and when they were inside their own 5 yard line, they would begin being penalized half the distance to the goal line. The goal line would never be reached since the half distance penalties would go on indefinitely, and so the game would never end.

Could this theoretically happen?


No, that's not realistic. Even for situations not explicitly mentioned, most sports (including the NFL) have basic "catch-all" rules allowing officials to make decisions necessary in the interest of the game. Not every potential issue may be thought of ahead of time.

12-3-3 comes close to an explicit prohibition, mentioning that intentional fouls to manipulate the clock are not allowed. But this seems to be written to prevent teams from running out the clock, not to prevent them from keeping it stopped. So the penalty mentioned there doesn't give relief.

I suspect that this is not a realistic worry to happen in a game. But if it did, officials could invoke NFL Rules 12-3-4 and start with kicking people out of the game that they think are committing intentional fouls to prevent the game from starting. If that didn't get the game going, they could stop the game and award a forfeit.

ARTICLE 4. PALPABLY UNFAIR ACT. A player or substitute shall not interfere with play by any act which is palpably unfair.

Penalty: For a palpably unfair act: Offender may be disqualified. The Referee, after consulting the officiating crew, enforces any such distance penalty as they consider equitable and irrespective of any other specified code penalty. The Referee may award a score. See 19-1-3.

And the referred to rule is:

ARTICLE 3. REFEREE’S AUTHORITY. The Referee is to have general oversight and control of the game. The Referee is the final authority for the score. If there is a disagreement between members of the crew regarding the number of down, any decision, or the application, enforcement, or interpretation of a rule, the Referee’s decision will be final. The Referee’s decisions upon all matters not specifically placed under the jurisdiction of other officials by rule are final.

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