CFL Rule differences. Ask your questions here.

Hey new fans. Here are some of the biggest differences in the CFL

  1. 3 downs
  2. Field is 110 x 65 with 20 yard end zones
  3. 12 men per side
  4. Defense lines up a yard off the line of scrimmage
  5. Entire Offensive backfield is allowed in motion before the snap
  6. Receivers only need one foot in bounds to count for receptions
  7. No fair catch, but the kicking team has to remain at least 5 yards away from the football until to opposing side touches it. The kicker is onside and can recover the ball
  8. If the ball is kicked through the end zone, or a player kneels the ball out in the End Zone, that scores 1 point
  9. 20 second play clock instead of 40

The Differences between American Football and Canadian Football (NFL vs CFL) - EXPLAINED!

This is another video I like...

CFL This is Our League- Full Version

Something just occurred to me as to another subtle difference between the two leagues in terms of athletic skills.

You could have two receivers that are identical in size and identical when it comes to catching abilities.

But in the NFL, getting to full speed within a couple strides is critical. If one can do that better than the other, he's going to make it every time.

Since all receivers in the CFL hit the line already at full speed, that negates the need for that explosive burst on the snap

But they have to be able to time the snap count better, don't they. Rather than just watch for the ball to be snapped.

Oh for sure! Can't imagine how much practice that timing takes.

Different training is all it is, really.

But that instant speed comes in handy for two of the five receivers, the split ends.

And, IMO, officials allow receivers a little leeway on the hitting the line of scrimmage. D-lines get called if even a part of their hand encroaches, WRs get that yard it seems, as long as they don’t run past, or touch, a defensive player?

WR and Slots all seem to get the break as long as they are within the yard from scrimmage.

Slow down the film, and watch for the initial movement of the ball, and you'll see that the receivers are still onside almost every time. Once, maybe twice a season, one will have his foot in the air over the line. And over the past ten years or so, I've only seen one case where the officials missed where the receiver's foot touched across the line prior to that initial ball movement.

So, who's gonna start explaining the Rouge? lol
The kicking game is vastly different than either the NFL or NCAA. There is no Fair Catch - instead, the punt returner has a 5-yd "halo" around him that a member of the kicking team may not enter (except for an on-side player; meaning the punter and ANY PLAYER THAT WAS BEHIND THE PUNTER WHEN THE BALL IS KICKED). The punting team would be charged either a 15- or 5-yd penalty if they encroach the no-go zone when the returner fields the ball, depending if the ball hits the turf or not.

On any kick (kickoff, punt, or FG attempt) that enters the end zone, the kicking team will be awarded a single point if they PREVENT THE RETURNING TEAM FROM BRING THE BALL FULLY OVER THE GOAL LINE. This is known as a Rouge. Note: this is NOT a point awarded for a "failed" kick...

Here's one of the best examples of the fun the rouge can provide:

But to further clarify, on a kickoff, a single point will only be awarded if the ball had been at least touched by the receiving team; if the ball goes out of the endzone without being touched ON A KICKOFF, no single point.

Also, for all kicking plays, once a returner is out of the end zone with possession of the ball, the typical "safety" rules apply if he retreats to his own end zone.

And to further clarify punts, even if no receiving player is near the ball, players from the punting team are not allowed to touch the ball after it's been punted (with the exception of the punter himself, and any other "onside" players as described in an earlier post).

Thank you for this. Especially for the last point. The rouge is awarded because the receiving team failed-- they failed to bring the kick out of their end zone.

Someone here once a few years ago put it this way: in American football, the goal line is a sort of finish line. In Canadian football, it marks the home territory of the defence. Failure to protect that territory results in one, two, three, or six points being awarded.

In a related issue, we don't have touch backs like American football does. If the ball is kicked into the end zone, the receiving team can't just watch the ball come to a stop and take it at the 20 yard line; they need to either concede the rouge or try to return it out of the end zone. And of course there is always the risk that the kicker or an onside player could pounce on it for a touchdown.

And don't forget the deeper end zone in all of this. It's 20 yards deep, and used to be 25 yards back in the day. So that home territory has lots of room to manoeuvre.

Long live the rouge!

in Canadian football, the ball can be kicked at any time during the play . A receiver could catch the ball and then kick it downfield . On the third down punt, the kicker is onside and may recover his own kick if it travels past thefirst down marker. While the punter is running downfield, any team mate he passes is now considered onside and is capable of recovering the kick, too.

I'll stop and let that sink in . Here endeth today's lesson . If any new fans are confused, don't worry . Many long time fans are confused, too.

Pat Lynch (the old guy)

In addition to the absolute field dimensions, the placement of the hashmarks is also quite important.

The hashmarks in the CFL are much wider apart compared to the NFL. (They're really much more like the NCAA)

If the ball is placed on one hashmark, it's 24 yards to the boundary sideline AND A WHOPPING 41 yards to the field/wide side of the field.

In the NFL, if the ball is placed on one hashmark that distance to the boundary is similar @ 23.5 yards (approximately). And the distance to the field/wide side is 29.75 yards (approximately).

That throw/route to the boundary side is fairly comfortable for NFL or US trained players since the dimensions are quite similar and the receiver to the boundary (Usually denoted X starts from a stationary on the LOS most times.

It's the throws/routes to the field/wide side that is often new. 41 yards from one far has to the other sideline is MASSIVE and it takes some time to get used to it for QB's in particular but all players.

Hope this helps a little.

Welcome all new fans. Hope you enjoy.

Corrections based on the following from the rule book, as well as a few other sections.

[b]Article 6 – Onside & Offside[/b] An onside player is a member of the kicker’s team who is behind the ball at the instant it is kicked towards the opponent’s Dead Line.

An offside player is a member of the kicker’s team who is not onside.

An offside player becomes an onside player when the ball, after being kicked towards the opponent’s Dead Line, touches or is touched by an opponent, the kicker or another onside player.


In Canadian football, the ball can be kicked at any time during any play . A receiver could catch the ball and then kick it downfield . On any kick, the kicker is onside and may recover his own kick. Any player behind the ball when it is kicked is onside as well, and can also recover his own kick. All players are onside on kickoffs. The holder on field goals in not onside, as he's not behind the ball but even with it.

Also, if a kick crosses the line of scrimmage and is recovered by an onside player from the kicking team, it is a first down, regardless of where the first down marker is. Ottawa attempted this last year, on second and long, if I remember correctly. Unfortunately, the kicker (in this case, a receiver after catching a screen pass) got a little too much on the kick and couldn't get to the ball in time.

Notice that I said the ball can be kicked on any play. It's been a while since we've seen a second down punt, but they used to be fairly common (three of them in the 1967 Grey Cup game). The objective wasn't always to recover the ball, but more a field position play. Recovering it was often a bonus.

don't think that is correct. I believe the onside players have to be behind the kicker when the ball is kicked.

Thats right CFO. That's what's known as a Quick Kick, a kick on second down. It happened a lot in the 60s when Joe Zuger was our QB, and was also the best punter in the league. When we were second and long, in not very good field position, Joe would drop into shotgun formation, and often launch one of his famous long, low spirals deep into enemy territory. The defence couldn't be sure if he was planning to pass or might hoof it, so they'd send defenders deep but not really deep. Sometimes Joe's bomb would sail over their heads and they'd have to turn and run back to chase it. The way Joe punted he could send it almost as deep into the wind as with it. It was a good strategic move to gain field position, especially in that year of 1967, when we had what was probably the best defence in CFL history.

Another subtle difference is the roster size. Game day roster in the CFL is limited to 44 players, two less than the NFL. Doesn't sound like much, until you remember the extra player on the field. That means that there are only 20 backup / special team players in the CFL vs. 24 in the NFL.

One impact of this, other than more dependency on endurance, is that teams often use only one kicker for all three roles in order to open up a spot for another backup. There's always (usually?) a backup kicker somewhere on the roster, but he's often not a dedicated kicker. Faubert-Lussier, one of our national receivers, is one of our backup kickers.

(And with that, do we open up the can of worms known as "the ratio"?)

Actually, this is the one thing the CFL refs are usually pretty good at. (PVR and freeze frames and a lot of patience proved this one)

They can cross the line as soon as the ball is snapped, ie first movement of the ball from the center. So often it looks like they're farther forward than they are just based on when the QB gets it.