About Football Glossary - Illegal Shift

at the line of scrimmage before the snap
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An illegal shift is a foul by the offense where a player fails to set prior to the snap.

Shift

A shift is the movement of an offensive linemen prior to the snap. A team is allowed to shift as many players as they want prior to the snap, as long as all of the players that shifted come to a complete stop for a full second before the ball is snapped.

Motion

Motion is similar to a shift, however there is a key difference.

Motion occurs when a player is moving at the time that the ball is snapped. For example, a receiver in motion would be running parallel to the line of scrimmage as the quarterback receives the snap from the center. A shift on the other hand occurs when one or more offensive players change their position prior to the snap. A shift causes a change in formation. Shifts are commonly utilized in check off situations.

Only players in the backfield, not on the line of scrimmage, are permitted to be in motion at the time of the snap. This means that offensive linemen cannot move prior to the snap, and can never be sent in motion. Prior to going into motion, all players on offense must be set in formation for at least a second. Typically, only one offensive player can be in motion at a time, and the player that is in motion is not allowed to move toward the line of scrimmage. He must run parallel to the line of scrimmage while in motion.

Variations

There are rules in place regarding how players are allowed to maneuver prior to the snap of the football. An illegal shift can be called for a variety of reasons:

A. An illegal shift can be called when a player is not in motion, but is also not set prior to the snapping of the ball.

B. An illegal shift can be called when more than one player is in motion at the time of the snap.

C. An illegal shift can be called when all eleven players on the team have not been motionless for one consecutive second.

Illegal shifts are most commonly called in the waning minutes of a game when a team is trying to quickly advance the ball and does not take the time to properly set before the ball is snapped.

The NFL lumps all motion and shift penalties into the same category referred to “illegal motion penalties.” Other leagues, including the NCAA, make a distinction between an illegal shift and illegal motion. An illegal shift penalty refers to offensive players shifting, but not coming to a complete stop for at least a second before the ball is snapped. An illegal motion deals with players who is in motion at the time the ball is snapped.

The penalty for an illegal shift is a five yard loss from the previous spot and a replay of the down.

Examples: The penalty for an illegal shift is five yards against the offending team.

 

 

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Alder, James. "About Football Glossary - Illegal Shift." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2015, thoughtco.com/about-football-glossary-illegal-shift-1333945. Alder, James. (2015, December 6). About Football Glossary - Illegal Shift. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/about-football-glossary-illegal-shift-1333945 Alder, James. "About Football Glossary - Illegal Shift." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/about-football-glossary-illegal-shift-1333945 (accessed October 20, 2017).