Football Terms – Line of Scrimmage
The neutral zone is the area during the pre-snap of a play which is considered between the offensive zone and the defensive zone. Neither the offense or defense is allowed to cross into this neutral zone before the ball is snapped and the play is started. If this happens, a neutral zone infraction occurs, which causes the offending side a five-yard penalty.
Defensive players can move across the neutral zone, if they return to their side of the zone before the ball is snapped, if they do not touch an offensive player and if their movement into the neutral zone does not draw an offensive player offsides. Often when a defending crosses into the neutral zone, an offensive player will move, which initiates the penalty against the defense.
The neutral zone is defined as an area from one sideline to the other, stretching between the offensive and defensive units. The size of the neutral zone is defined as the length of the football.
Many times, it appears to the outside observer that one player or another has lined up in the neutral zone (itself a 5-yard penalty), though there is an official on every play that stands and watches the neutral zone from the sidelines, making the call if there is an infraction.