With the NFL season about to kick off I’ll help run you by the key positions of the game which will give you some ammo to show your mates down at the local you know your Ben Roethlisberger’s from your hamburgers.
This is about as close as you’ll get to seeing grown men play a schoolyard game of tackle bull-rush. The ball is kicked from one teams 35-yard line (32m) and has to go 10 yards, kind of like the rule we have in the NRL. The ‘short 10’ is known as an ‘onside kick’. The catcher has two options:
- Run headfirst into the avalanche of pain heading his way. Also known as a ‘return’.
- A ‘Touch back, which involves the catcher waiving his arm signaling he won’t run the ball back and in turn can’t be touched by the flood of the kicking team raining down on him.
If the kick goes out the back of the end zone (the touch in goal) it’s an automatic 20-yard restart kind of like in the NRL without the 7 tackles.
When teams are on offence they (usually) line up in the following formation.
- Quarterback: the guy that handles the ball on every play making the decision to run or pass. They’re like the halfbacks of NRL teams controlling the play only they’re about 25x more important.
- Running back: who’s usually shaped like a bowling ball to give them that staunch center of gravity to bust through tackles. These blokes have the lowest life expectancy in the league because they’re expected to just cart the ball up play after play and get walloped for their troubles.
- A couple of wide receivers that are pretty much like the wingers we have in the NRL. They’re the ones you’ll see on the highlight reels catching the passes and acting like divas when they get hurt.
- Tight end: Tall, strong and usually not very bright. These guys make short runs in the middle of the field acting as a security blanket for the quarterback giving him a quick option to pass to if the play goes to shit. They also use their size to block the defence and are generally top blokes to have a beer with.
- Offensive line: As Aussie blokes, I’ll spare you the breakdown of each individual position. As some of us consider watching an NFL game the closest we’ll get to going gourmet (I think I’ve used that word right) all you need to know is that the offensive line get paid to keep the quarterback upright and the running back moving forward. These big boppas put their bodies on the line on the daily just smashing into other guys. That’s why you’ll often hear of your Tom Brady’s and Drew Brees’ buying their offensive line cars or fancy gadgets after the season. Those fellas literally keep the quarterbacks out of the hospital.
- Defensive line: Similar to our mates on the offensive line I’ll save you lot the detailed explanations. All you need to know is that these are the blokes with the abandonment issues who only started to play American Football to rip someone’s head off. They get paid to hurt people. That’s it.
- Linebackers (Middle or outside): We're a smart lot so we know that the middle linebacker plays in the middle and the outside linebacker plays on the outside. A linebacker’s role is to spot the gap when the offensive and defensive lines clash and try and eat the quarterback. Not literally, but they do try and all but kill the quarterback. Teams have been known to pay players extra if they’ve managed to injure the opposing team’s quarterback (that’s illegal). A team with an injured quarterback is like a Holden Commy without the v8 engine. It looks the goods but when it comes time to put pedal to the metal it’s no good.
- Cornerback: These boys are tasked with defending the pass. The wide receivers will try and be targeted by the quarterback and all the corners have to do is swat that ball away like a fly on a hot Aussie summers day. If they intercept it, that’s a bonus. An intercept is known as pick and if it’s returned for a touchdown it’s known as a pick-six (touchdowns are worth 6 points with a 1 point conversion). Corners are the guys talking all sorts of shit on the field trying to get in the head of the wide receivers. Problem is when they get scored on… the receivers talk that smack straight back.
- Safety: These blokes are like Mr. Wolf from Pulp Fiction (if you haven’t seen the movie do yourself a favour and got on it a.s.a.p.). They’re the clean up crew. They’re out the back waiting to see if there are any messes they need to clean up. If the corner doesn’t stop the receiver from catching the ball the safety will be there waiting to wipe him out. If the quarterback throws a Hail Mary (Those bullshit plays you always use on your mate on Madden where you launch the ball down the field and hope for the best), you guessed it, safety to the rescue. Not all heroes wear capes.
Hopefully this will get you boys into the spirit of the NFL because lets face it, NRL is coming to an end and we’ll need our fix of football at some stage. In a couple of shakes I’ll run through general play, until then keep an eye on the games down at pub and impress your mates by pointing out the amount of gibberish that wide receiver is spitting or how good that cornerback’s pick-six was.