What are the main differences between regulations of the NFL and the CFL?

I live in Canada and follow the NFL, but also watch CFL games once in a while. I know a few differences; for example in the NFL each team gets 4 tries to carry the ball 10 yards, but that is only 3 tries in the CFL. Also I have noticed that the field is bigger under CFL regulations.

I'm wondering what are the major differences between the rules in these two leagues, specially when it comes to fouls.


2 Answers 2


Here is site that covers a lot of differences. http://www.13thman.com/cflvsnfl.html

Specifically to penalties is the Fair catch (NFL) vs. No Yards rule (CFL) on kick returns, but in general some of the bigger differences include:

  • Field length and upright position
  • Number of players on the field
  • Number of downs
  • Scoring rules on kicking plays
  • Fair catch (NFL) vs. No Yards rule (CFL) on kick returns
  • Length of play clock
  • Players in motion prior to the snap

Another rule I didn't see mentioned but is fairly significant is that CFL only requires one foot in play for a catch to be considered complete.

I'm sure there are other rule differences as well this is just a start.

  • 3
    Interesting site. It's not entirely accurate, though; for example, in the US game, a missed FG can be returned if it doesn't hit the ground (is caught in the air), and the clock doesn't run continuously except for the ball to be replaced - there are all sorts of times when the clock stops.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 20:25

At times it may appear that an offensive player in motion is treated the same in both leagues, but the rules are drastically different in both leagues. In the CFL any eligible receiver not on the line of scrimmage can be moving towards the line of scrimmage at the the snap of the ball. RB, FB, & WR can all be moving at the same time. Additionally in the CFL eligible receivers on the line of scrimmage before the snap of the ball can only move along the line of scrimmage, perpendicular to the sideline and the ball. In the NFL only one player can be in motion at a time and he is a player not on the line of scrimmage. Players off the line of scrimmage can go in motion sequentially with a one second pause between motions. There are times when it appears that more than one eligible player is moving, but this considered a shift. The players break the huddle and line up in a formation. Any combination of eligible receivers can move to another position on the field and have to come to rest in that position for a one second before the ball can be snapped otherwise it is a penalty for illegal motion.

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