In the NFL, an illegal snap is an offensive penalty called on the center that results in a loss of five yards.
The snap does not have to be between the snapper’s legs, but must be one quick and continuous motion of his hand or hands. The ball must leave or be taken from his hands during this motion.” – NFL Rulebook.
An illegal snap occurs when a center fails to snap the ball in continuous motion. If the center makes a sudden movement before snapping the ball, a penalty will be called.
Having the center’s hands twitch after placing the ball on the ground is enough to call an illegal snap infraction. Another helpful way to think about an illegal snap infraction is as a false start.
In College Football, What is an illegal Snap Infraction?
According to the NCAA, a snap must meet these expectations in order to be legal at the collegiate level.
To be legal, the snap must be a quick and continuous backward motion, not between the snapper’s legs. – NCAA Rulebook.
Following the NFL rule, this ensures that a legal snap is generated from a single motion.
Is it illegal to Penalty Snap Infractions?
This penalty is intended to prevent the center from using false motion with the ball to create a neutral zone violation.
To ensure that this is done fairly, the NFL has put in place several rules to ensure that the hard count is used to try and get the defense to commit a penalty.
A player cannot run towards the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. After completing a shift, you must stand still for at least one full second.
Offenses are prohibited from using unfair tactics to trick their opponents under these rules.
During the snap, many players watch the hands of the center so they can start the play as soon as the ball is snapped. This is an illegal snap infraction.
It is for this reason that the ball should be snapped in one continuous motion and not performed as a sort of “pump fake” by the center.
By enforcing snap rules, the league ensures the ball is snapped smoothly each time.
Is it Necessary to Snap the Ball between your Legs?
Although snapping the ball between the legs is the norm at every level of football, it is not the only legal way to do it. Both the NFL and NCAA state in their rulebooks that it is not required.
Both the NFL and NCAA rulebooks state that the snap must be executed in “smooth and continuous motion”.
If you snap the ball in a quick continuous motion, then it should be legal, even if it doesn’t go between your legs.