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Forward pass

From Academic Kids

In American and Canadian football, a forward pass — usually called simply a pass — is a throwing of the football from a member of the team in possession of the ball to another member of the same team who is closer to that team's goal. This is permitted only once during an offensive play and only from behind the line of scrimmage. If an eligible receiver on the passing team legally catches the ball it is a complete pass and the receiver may attempt to advance the ball. If an opposing player legally catches the ball (all defensive players are eligible receivers) it is an interception. That player's team immediately gains possession of the ball and he may attempt to advance the ball toward his goal. If no player is able to legally catch the ball it is an incomplete pass and the ball becomes dead the moment it touches the ground. It will then be returned to the original line of scrimmage for the next down. If any player interferes with an eligible receiver's ability to catch the ball it is pass interference and will incur a penalty.

The person passing the ball must be a member of the offensive team, the recipient of the forward pass must be an eligible receiver, and must touch the passed ball before any ineligible player.

The moment that a forward pass begins is important to the game. The pass begins the moment the passer's arm begins to move forward. If the passer drops the ball before this moment it is a fumble and therefore a loose ball. In this case anybody can gain possession of the ball before or after it touches the ground. If the passer drops the ball after his arm begins moving forward it is an incomplete pass (unless someone catches the ball before it hits the ground in which case it is a completed pass or an interception).

If a forward pass is caught at the sideline it is only complete (or intercepted) if the receiver catches the ball in bounds. In the NFL the receiver must touch the ground with both feet within bounds after catching the ball to be in bounds. In the NCAA the receiver only needs to touch the ground with one foot within bounds after catching the ball. The CFL rule is similar to the NCAA's - the pass will be ruled complete if caught by a receiver in mid-air, as long as he touches the ground in bounds with his first step.

What is common to all gridiron codes is the receiver must have possession of the ball while he is still in bounds as defined by his code. If the receiver catches the ball but the official determines that he was still "bobbling" it as he stepped into touch, the pass will be ruled incomplete.


In Rugby Football (usually called Rugby) a forward pass is when the ball is passed forward to a player in the same team. This is considered a minor foul, resulting in a scrum.

To eliminate the chances of this happening, players make sure they are running behind the player with the ball, so it cannot occur without the pass being particularly bad.

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