Who Can Call A Timeout? – Football Basics

When watching football on television you may notice that it is often the head coach calling the timeouts. But what if the running back were to call a timeout after getting tackled? Is this allowed?

Timeouts in the NFL are called by the head coach or any player on the team.

This is stated in the NFL rulebook rules here:

Rule 4 Game Timing; Section 5 Timeouts CHARGED TEAM TIMEOUTS Article 1 The Referee shall suspend play while the ball is dead and declare a charged team timeout upon the request for a timeout by the head coach or any player to any official.

As you can see the NFL rules state that the head coach or any player can call a timeout. Interestingly enough this does not include any assistant coaches.

This means your long snapper can legally call a timeout but your offensive and defensive coordinators can not.

How Do Timeouts Work In The NFL?

Timeouts in the NFL allow your team some time to strategize or stop the clock in time-sensitive situations. Each team is awarded three timeouts per half.

Regardless of how many timeouts are used, you will start the second half with three. If you challenge a play and lose you are forced to use a timeout as you have effectively stopped the clock.

Timeouts are a valuable asset to teams especially late in a half. Calling a timeout allows you to stop the clock in between plays.

Timeouts also allow you to stop the other team from running out the clock. These can be the difference in you have one last possession to tie or win the game.

Can A Team Call Back To Back Timeouts?

In the NFL teams are not allowed to call back-to-back timeouts. The NFL rulebook states it here:

“Each team may be granted a charged team timeout during the same dead-ball period, but a second charged team timeout by either team during the same dead-ball period is prohibited. Such team timeouts may follow a Referee’s timeout or any automatic timeouts.”

This means a team cannot call two timeouts in a row without a play happening in between. This means you cannot ice a kicker twice.

When Happens If A Team Calls A Timeout When They Have None Left?

In 2016 the NFL introduced a new rule to penalize this action. Now, when a team uses a timeout when they do not have one they are assessed a delay of game penalty. This delay of game penalty will move the ball five yards.

Previously this would not carry a penalty but instead would be announced the team has no timeouts and the play clock would be reset.

How Many Timeouts Do You Get In Football

In both NFL and college football, each team will be given three timeouts per half. If a team does not use all three of their timeouts they will not carry over to the second half.

If a game goes to overtime each team is given two timeouts in the NFL. While in college football an overtime period grants each team one timeout per possession.

Why do teams call timeouts in football?

Now that you know all the rules surrounding timeouts in the NFL you may be wondering why teams use timeouts.

The main reason a football team is going to use a timeout is to stop the clock. When a player is tackled in bounds late in the game the clock is going to keep running.

When teams need to make a comeback they are going to stop the clock in these situations. This can buy the team a lot more game time as the offense can kill off roughly forty seconds of the game clock between each play.

A team will be able to use a timeout three times to stop the clock per half.

Teams may also use timeouts in order to allow their team to substitute players. If the defense sees a matchup they don’t like a timeout may be called so they can change their personnel.

Icing the kicker is another reason a team may call a timeout. This occurs when the defensive team calls a timeout in order to psych out the opposing team’s kicker.

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