What Is A Football Move – Understanding The Rules

If you watch football on Sundays you’ve likely heard the referee or commentators refer to a player making a football move after catching the ball.

This piece of football terminology has been the subject of great debate amongst fans as many find it confusing.

That being said, understanding the term football move is actually quite simple.

A football move in the rule book is defined as a movement or action that is common to the game.

In other words, if a player makes a movement or action that is often made when possessing the ball then that player has completed a football move.

The easiest way to think of a football move is to think of an action a player would make after securing the ball. These actions are used as proof that the player has caught the ball and is now acting as a ball carrier.

To learn more about topics similar to a football move see our guides to double moves in football.

Examples Of Football Moves

Alright, so now we know a football move is simply an action or movement that is common to the game. Now we are going to break down some examples of football moves that often occur after a catch.

Tucking The Ball Away For Protection

Say for example a receiver extends his arms upwards to reach for the ball. The receiver will catch the ball up high and secure it in his hands. If the ball is batted away prior to him tucking it away this will be called an incomplete pass.

But if the player secures the ball above his head and then proceeds to tuck the ball away under his arm he has then made a football move.

This action of tucking the ball away displays that the player has secured the ball and is now acting as a ball carrier.

Reaching For The Goal Line

Reaching for the goal line is another common football move seen on Sundays. If a player catches the ball then reaches out his hands to break the plane of the goal line this will be considered a football move.

Reaching for the goal line is not part of the catching process. This action is one of a player that is already possessing the ball. Since this action is common to the game and comes after the ball is secured it is considered a football move.

Stiff Arming An Opponent

Stiff arming an opponent is another example of a football move. I don’t know about you but I haven’t seen many plays where a player stiff arms an opponent while still trying to catch a ball.

The act of stiff-arming a defender displays that the catching process is over and the player is now attempting to beat defenders. This is the sort of action that will display to the officials that the player had possession of the ball and is focused on moving up the field.

When Are Football Moves Reviewed?

There are two main occasions when a football move is going to be reviewed in football. These reviews occur when reviewing the completion of a catch as well as the ruling of a fumble.

Complete or incomplete pass

In most cases reviewing a play to determine if a football move is made is done in order to determine if a catch was completed or not.

Football is a fast-moving game and in some instances, it can be almost impossible for an official to determine whether not a pass was caught.

In these instances, the referees can look at the replays to determine if a football move was made. This will help them to determine if the play caught the ball then was downed and lost it. Or if the player lost the ball in the process of catching it.

Incomplete or fumble

Another situation in which a football move is reviewed comes when a ball is knocked out of the hands of a receiver shortly after catching it. If the receiver is not downed with the ball a play like this will be called incomplete or a fumble.

The officiating crew will watch the replay to determine if a football move was made. If the player was in the process of catching the ball as it was knocked out then an incomplete pass will be called.

If the receiver caught the ball and made a football move prior to the ball being knocked out, the result will be a fumble.


I hope that you have enjoyed this article on what a football move is.

Remember a football move is any action common to the game. In other words, a football move is the sort of action a player would make once he has finished completing the catch.

If a player has completed a catch they will start to make these actions naturally. This is why the NFL uses this rule to determine whether or not a player has caught the ball.

If you did enjoy this article on football moves learn more about the rules such through our guides to understanding illegal formations in football or learning about ineligible receivers.

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