A legal forward pass is thrown by any Team A player from a point behind the scrimmage line, towards the opponent's Dead Line, to any eligible receiver or receivers. The ball shall not touch the ground, any part of the goal post assembly, an official or any other object. The ball is considered to be in the possession of Team A until the pass is ruled completed or incomplete. The passing motion begins when the passer's hand, with the ball in possession, begins moving forward.

A screen pass is a forward pass thrown to a receiver at a point behind the line of scrimmage. Should the ball be touched by an eligible receiver in the offensive backfield then proceed across the line of scrimmage, it shall continue to be considered a screen pass. Unless otherwise stated, rules governing forward passes shall apply to screen passes.

Only one forward pass shall be thrown on any down. If a second pass is thrown:


A pass may be thrown by any Team A player who was behind the scrimmage line when passing the ball. The passer needs at least one foot on or behind the line of scrimmage when the ball is released to be considered behind the line of scrimmage. The passer need not be the first player to receive the ball from the centre.

If the pass is thrown from a point across the line of scrimmage:


The following players are eligible receivers:

  1. any Team A player who is identified by number as an eligible receiver (see Rule 4, Section 5, Article 2, Note 1 & Rule 6, Section 4, Article 4, Note 2) and who, at the snap of the ball, is occupying a position either at the end of the line of scrimmage or in the backfield at least one yard back of the line of scrimmage.
  2. any player of Team B, whether or not the pass is legally thrown.

Eligible receivers will wear numbers from 0-49 and 70-99.

Ineligible receivers will wear numbers from 50-69.

  1. On a third down play or,
  2. On a convert attempt or,
  3. On a first or second down kicking formation in the last minute of a quarter,
  4. On any kicking formation in overtime,

provided that prior to the game, Team A declared to the Referee a list of eligibly numbered players who may be so deployed and such eligibly numbered players shall not be eligible as pass receivers, regardless of the position occupied on that play.

At any time during the game, an eligibly numbered player may be added to the list by entering the field of play and reporting to the Referee.

If an eligibly numbered player who is not on the list participates at an ineligible receiver position (within one yard of the line of scrimmage tackle to tackle), his team will be warned once and his number will be added to the list. If this occurs a second time, a Procedure penalty shall be called.

A maximum of 2 players wearing an ineligible number (50 — 69) will be allowed to line up in an eligible position as an end or in the backfield after reporting to the Referee prior to a scrimmage play. The Referee will inform the opposing team and all officials of the player number and position he will be playing.

When an ineligible receiver is the first player of Team A to catch or deliberately touch the ball:


A pass is completed under the following conditions:

  1. when caught by a Team A eligible receiver or by two or more such receivers simultaneously,
  2. when caught by a player or simultaneously by players of Team B or when such a pass is touched by, or touches B1 and then is caught by B2,
  3. when caught simultaneously by players of both teams who maintain possession until the play is terminated, the ball shall be awarded to Team A,
  4. an eligible receiver of either team, who catches a pass near the Sideline and touches the ground in bounds with the first step, shall retain possession even if the next step is Out of Bounds.
  5. When a receiver of either team, who is in the air and has complete control of the ball, has his feet or another part of his body hit the ground, the player must retain possession for the pass to be ruled complete, with or without contact by an opponent.

A forward pass shall be declared incomplete and the ball next put in play at the point of last scrimmage with downs continuing:

  1. when the ball strikes the ground, goal post assembly, an official or any object on or back of the Dead Line or Out of Bounds, even if previously touched by a player,
  2. when the ball goes Out of Bounds, even though touched by a player in the Field of Play,
  3. when the ball is caught by an eligible player of either team while off the ground who, on landing, touches a Sideline, a Sideline in Goal, a Dead Line or any object or ground beyond such lines,
  4. when the passer has commenced with a forward passing motion with the ball moving forward and, as a result of contact with an opponent, the ball leaves the passer's hand and strikes the ground,
  5. while in midair a receiver of either team who has firm control of the ball, but loses possession of the ball when that player's feet or other part of the body hits the ground, with or without contact by any opponent.

If a Team A passer deliberately, and in the official's opinion for the purpose of avoiding loss of yardage, throws the ball behind the line of scrimmage to the ground or Out of Bounds or to an area in which there is not an eligible Team A receiver, the team shall be penalized.

PENALTY: LD at point from which pass was thrown. If the pass was thrown from the Goal Area, a safety touch score shall be awarded to Team B, subject to the right of Team B to decline the score and accept the play as it terminated.

NOTE: Team A shall not be penalized if the passer throws the ball across the line of scrimmage to an open area or Out of Bounds.

Prior to a forward pass being thrown behind the line of scrimmage, a Team A player may carry out an otherwise legal block on a Team B player at any point on the field, effective the instant the ball is snapped.

Prior to a pass being thrown incidental contact by both Team A and Team B players may occur anywhere on the field; this includes hand-fighting. Such contact is not a foul unless it materially affects the opponent creating a distinct advantage.

Prior to a pass being thrown across the line of scrimmage, it is illegal for a Team A player to initiate a block with a Team B player more than 1 yard across the line of scrimmage before the pass is deemed complete or incomplete.


Prior to a forward pass being thrown, a Team B player may:

  1. In the zone up to five yards in advance of the line of scrimmage, contact a Team A eligible receiver provided the receiver is face up and in front of the defender. Such contact may be maintained until the receiver moves beyond either (i) a position even with the defender or (ii) the end of the 5-yard zone. All other contact by Team B is deemed illegal and shall be penalized L10 PLS.
  2. Beyond the five yard zone from the line of scrimmage, use their hands to shed contact initiated by the Team A receiver.

Prior to a forward pass being thrown, a Team B player may not:

  1. Beyond the 5-yard zone, create or initiate contact that redirects, restricts, or impedes the Team A receiver in any way. Such contact is “Illegal Contact On A Receiver”.


Illegal Contact on a Receiver does not apply if at any time after the snap a player other than the Designated Quarterback has possession of the ball or if the Designated Quarterback loses possession. In addition, the Illegal Contact restrictions do not apply when Team A kicks the ball across the line of scrimmage or lines up in a kicking formation.

  1. Should the attempt to catch the pass take place in the offensive backfield, the following shall apply:
    1. Interference by Team A is legal.
    2. Interference by Team B against an eligible Team A receiver who is attempting to catch the ball is a foul.
      PENALTY: 1D to Team A, 10 yards in advance PLS
  2. Should the forward pass be thrown across the line of scrimmage, the following shall apply:
    1. Eligible receivers of both teams have an equal right to the ball and are entitled to the positions they occupy.
    2. If a player commits pass interference when a forward pass is deemed uncatchable, no penalty for pass interference shall be applied.
    3. Pass interference shall not be called if it occurs after the ball has been touched by an eligible receiver of either team.
    4. Inadvertent tripping by a player with equal position shall not be ruled as interference.
    5. Tripping an opponent from behind shall be considered accidental pass interference.
    6. Screening (face guarding) of an opponent during an attempt to catch the ball is pass interference.
    7. It is pass interference by either team when a player physically contacts an opponent creating separation, redirects, restricts or impedes the opponent in a manner that is visually evident and materially affects the opponent’s opportunity to play the ball. A player who has gained position shall not be considered to have impeded or restricted the opponent in a prohibited manner if all such actions are a bona fide effort to go to and play the ball.
    8. If opposing players are looking for the ball or if neither player is looking for the ball and there is incidental contact in moving to the ball that does not materially affect the route of an eligible player, there is no interference.
    9. Any eligible receiver who makes contact, however severe, with one or more eligible opponents while looking for and making a genuine attempt to catch or bat a reachable ball will not be called for interference. It shall be ruled pass interference if a player “goes through” an opponent during an attempt to play the ball.

PENALTY: If Team A commits the Pass Interference foul, L10 PLS

If Team B Commits the Pass Interference Foul:

  1. If interference is ruled accidental – L10 PLS and AFD for Team A.
  2. If interference is ruled deliberate – AFD awarded to Team A at PF or 10 yards in advance of PLS (whichever is closer to Team B Goal Line). If the infraction occurs in the Team B Goal Area – AFD to Team A at Team B’s 1-yard line.
  3. If interference is on a convert attempt – attempt repeated by Team A at PF, or L10 PLS, or 1-yard line if the foul is in Team B’s goal area.

After a forward pass has been completed across the line of scrimmage, a Team A player may block an opponent anywhere within bounds, provided that the contact is made only above the waist of the opponent.


When a forward pass has been intercepted, any player of Team B may interfere anywhere, within the bounds, provided that contact is made only above the waist of the opponent.


If Team B intercepts and then fumbles while attempting to run the ball out of the Goal Area, the ball may be legally recovered by Team A.

When the ball is dead in the Goal Area without score, Team B shall scrimmage at its 30-yard line, first down.

If Team B, while in possession in its Goal Area following an interception in goal, commits any infraction in the Goal Area or in the Field of Play, the penalty shall be applied from the 25-yard line, or option.

If Team B intercepts a pass in its Goal Area and the play is ruled dead in B’s Goal Area and Team A is called for Rough Play or Unnecessary Roughness in the Field of Play or in the Goal Area, the penalty shall be applied from Team B’s 30-yard line.

NOTE: If a Team B player intercepts a pass in the Field of Play while moving toward the Team B Goal Line and momentum carries that player into the Goal Area, the play shall be ruled as an interception in goal.

NOTE: The only score that can result from a Team B interception in its Goal Area, while the ball remains in the Goal Area, is a touchdown by Team A following recovery of a Team B fumble.


In searchable permalink form

Tips on Linking to the Rulebook
Table of Contents

CFLdb is in need of a copy of the CFL 2012 and 2014 Rulebook. If you can loan/provide an electronic copy/help, please reach out.

You are reading the 2023 version of the rulebook. Other available versions of this page are:

Please report any issues with the converted rulebook.


Converted to the web by CFLdb. An Adobe Acrobat PDF of the current version is available.

The original source of the version presently being viewed is © Copyright 2023 Canadian Football League

Publication Credits

Content compiled and written by Jeff Harbin and Andre Proulx

The CFL Official Rule Book is published annually by the Canadian Football League. Any inquiries regarding the CFL Official Playing Rules may be directed to Darren Hackwood, Associate Vice-President of Officiating at Any inquiries regarding CFL Statistical Scoring Rules may be directed to Jeff Krever, Head, CFL Player and Game Statistics at