Football New Brunswick 
A  Beginner's  Guide  to  Canadian Football


Field Layout

A regulation size Canadian football field is 110 yards long from goal line to goal line and 65 yards wide. The end zones are 20 yards deep. A series of lines called the "hash marks" are marked on the field 24 yards in from each sideline and go the length of the field from goal line to goal line. When a ball carrier is tackled outside these "hash marks" or goes out of bounds the team in possession of the ball will snap the football from the nearest hash mark.

Diagram of a Canadian Football Field

Objective of the Game

The basic objective of Canadian tackle football is for twelve players, through coordinated effort, to place the football, either by running or passing, into their opponents end zone area. "Tackle football" differs from "Touch football" in that full contact blocking is used to aid the movement of the ball into an opponent's end zone. Tackling is generally the technique used by the defense to impede offensive progress.

Basic Rules

1. The game shall consist of 60 minutes of actual playing time, divided into 4 quarters of 15 minutes each. For players at the high school level or lower, it is customary that the game consist of 4 quarters of 12 minutes each. However, depending on the age of the players, league officials might adopt different playing times.

2. The game is started by an opening kick off and subsequent play is initiiated from the point where the ball is "grounded" or where the receiving team's ball carrier is tackled. For simplicity's  sake, a tackle is defined as having the forward progress of the ball carrier stopped by the defense forcing one of his knees to the ground.

3. The number of on-field officials supervising the game proceedings can vary from 1 to 6, depending on local league by-laws.

4. Points for scoring are awarded on the following basis:

   Touchdown:     Run or pass the ball into the opponents end zone - 6 points.

   Field Goal:       The ball is place kicked between the goal post uprights, over the cross bar   
                            from anywhere on the field - 3 points.      

   Safety Touch:   If the ball becomes dead in the end zone after having been carried, passed, or
                             kicked from the field of play into their own end zone by the offensive team - 
                             2 points.

   Rouge:              When the ball becomes dead in the possession of a team in its own end zone, or
                             goes out of bounds in its end zone, as result of a kick into the end zone by the
                             opponent - 1 point

   Convert:            Following a touchdown, a team may attempt to add to its score by place
                             kicking the ball between the goal post uprights - 1 point, or by passing or
                             carrying the ball into the end zone - 2 points. Below the High School level, 2
                             points is awarded for a kicked convert and 1 point for a run or pass convert.

5. A legal offensive play may begin when:

   (a)  at least 7 players are on the line of scrimmage and stationary for one second prior to the snap
         of the ball.

  (b)  no more than 12 players for each team on the field of play.

  (c)  the ball is put in play by "snapping" the ball between the legs of a player ( the centre) in one
        continuous motion to the hands of another player (the quarterback).

6.   No player from either team may encroach on the one yard "neutral zone" between teams until
      the ball is snapped.

7.   A team has 20 seconds to put the ball into play, once the official has spotted the ball.

8.   The team in possession of the ball has three attempts or "downs" to gain 10 yards. It may
      advance the ball by carrying it, kicking it or throwing it. If the required distance is gained,
      the downs begin again. Failure to gain 10 yards in three downs results in the ball being awarded
      to the opponents.

9.   Blocking an opponent from the rear, or holding, grabbing a defensive player is illegal.

10.  Objectionable conduct is defined as 1) the use of profane, obscene or insulting language or
       gestures, 2) unsportsmanlike actions like throwing the ball at an opponent or official and 3) a 
       tactic employed to delay or hinder the smooth operation of the game. There is no place for
       objectionable conduct by any member of a football team, player or coach !



_________________________________________________   <Line of Scrimmage

SE                       LG  LT   C   RG   RT    TE
           SB                          QB                              FL


Position Terminology

  C- Centre                 TE-  Tight End          TE and SB are Inside Receivers
LG- Left Guard          SB-  Slot Back        
LT- Left Tackle          FL-  Flanker              FL and SE are Outside Receivers
RG- Right Guard        SE-  Split End
RT- Right Tackle        TB- Tailback
QB- Quarterback         FB- Fullback

Remember: A minimum of 7 players must be on the "line of scrimmage" and stationary when the ball is snapped.


The basic objective of a team is to move the ball into the opponent's end zone to score a touchdown or "major" score. This may be done by a combination of running or passing the ball downfield. Teams which depend equally on the run and the pass are referred to as "balanced" in their attack and are normally more difficult to defend.

Some teams, because of the talent of their players or the offensive philosophy, rely more heavily on either the run or passing attack. Those teams that use a high percentage of running or short passing plays are said to employ a "ball control" strategy. The goal is to obtain a series of "first downs", thus advancing the ball progressively towards the opponent's goal area. This style of play has the advantage of controlling the ball, consuming time  and thus keeping the opponent's offensive team off the field. The disadvantage of this strategy is that it is difficult to score quickly when behind in a game and time is running out.

Another strategy employed by offensive teams is to attempt to score as quickly as possible. This less conservative approach is a more wide open style of play featuring the passing game. The object is to move the ball quickly downfield into scoring position. As opposed to the "ball control" strategy, this style of play generally has greater risk of a "turnover" (loss of possession of the ball) but allows the offensive team to score more quickly if behind late in the game. 


_________________________________________________   <Line of Scrimmage

CB                       DE         DT     DT           DE                CB

           OLB                 ILB                   ILB               OLB

                           DHB                                  DHB 

Position Terminology

DT-    Defensive Tackle     |
DE-    Defensive End         |   Force Unit
ILB-   Inside Linebacker    |
OLB- Outside Linebacker  |

CB-    Cornerback             | 
DHB-  Defensive Halfback |    Contain Unit


The major goal of the defending team is to prevent an easy touchdown. Some teams use a "bend, but don't break" approach, which gives up short gains but attempts to prevent the long quick score. This strategy hopes that the offensive team will eventually fail to execute its offensive plays, either giving up the ball on downs, forcing it to punt  or turning it over to the defense on a fumble or interception.
This defensive strategy requires patience on the part of the defensive players.

Defensive strategies that attempt to force the offense to make mistakes, by rushing many defensive players across the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped, are said to employ an "attacking" style of play. This strategy hopes that the offensive timing can be disrupted and thus cause errors in play execution (fumbles, tackling the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage, forced interceptions, etc.) which will create quick turnover of the ball or a loss of confidence by the offense. This style of defense features lots of "blitzing" (linebackers rushing across the line of scrimmage on the snap of the ball) , and thus relies more heavily on man-to-man pass coverage on eligible receivers. The disadvantage of this style of play is that it is more susceptible to the quick score if an individual defensive player, covering an offensive pass receiver, makes an error in coverage or slips and falls down. 


          V                              V


    V                      V                       V

         V  V  V                   V  V  V 


    V                      V                       V
       V                                         V

           V  V  V                  V   V  V

                    V              V
         V                                       V

                   V                V
 V                                                      V

         V           V            V         V

        O     O    O   O    O  O   O

                      O           O

                      O           O    


           O     O    O   O    O  O   O
        O                                              O



 O   O   O    O   O       O  O   O  O   O




Normally considered as one third of the game, this aspect of football features large gains or losses of valuable field position. The most important strategy associated with the kicking game is field position. A normal game features between 7 and 14 third down punts, where the offensive team elects to punt rather than risk losing possession of the ball because it cannot gain the required 10 yards for a first down. The punt provides an opportunity for the kicking team to to gain valuable yardage and also gives the receiving team an opportunity to return the ball for a major score or to place itself in scoring position.

The place kick or field goal attempt is the other major aspect of the kicking game. Place kicking the ball over the opponent's goalpost crossbar between the uprights results in three points. A wide field goal attempt provides an opportunity for the returning team to gain valuable field position or even to return the ball all the way for a major score !

For further information we recommend to you any of the books and websites listed below:

The Complete Idiots Guide to Football by Joe Theisman, 375 Pages

Football for Dummies by Howie Long, 407 Pages

Football Made Simple- A Spectators Guide by David Ominsky, 129 Pages

NFL Football- Football Facts- Football Basics
NFL Football- Be a Player- Position Descriptions
NFL Europe-Beginner's Guide to American Football
Football Rules and Information
Canadian vs American Football Rules
Canadian Amateur Tackle Football Rulebook