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When can an ineligible receiver go downfield - I know they can't when a forward pass is thrown but how does it work in running plays?

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2 Answers 2

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This is well covered in the NFL Rulebook:

On a scrimmage play during which a legal forward pass is thrown, an ineligible offensive player, including a T-formation quarterback, is not permitted to move more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage before the pass has been thrown.

The key part here is during which a legal forward pass is thrown. If the quarterback snaps the ball, runs around a bit, and then doesn't throw it, it doesn't matter what an offensive lineman or other ineligible receiver does - they can go downfield as far as they want. It's once the pass is thrown that the penalty would be flagged.

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As far as my knowledge from watching football goes he is allowed to go downfield once the runner has passed the initial line of scrimmage. This rule applies to linemen, if they go past the line of scrimmage before the runner it is an illegal man downfield penalty.

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