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A touchdown is worth 6 points and entitles the scoring team to attempt an extra point by kicking the ball through the goalposts. The scoring team may also try for 2 extra points by completing a pass or running the ball across the goal line. For either attempt, the ball must be started 3 yards from the defending team's goal line. A field goal (kicking the ball through the goal posts) is worth 3 points and may be attempted from the 40 yard line when a touchdown has not resulted but the scoring team is within kicking range of the goal. Where the receiver of the kickoff is tackled and downed, the teams face each other in a line with the possessing team crouched to block the opponents. This is referred to as a scrimmage. The scrimmage is preceded by a "huddle" where the quarterback informs the team of the offensive play.
The team is comprised of a center, a guard, a tackle, two ends, a quarterback, two linebackers, two halfbacks, and a safety who all attempt to advance the ball 10 yards in four downs. If this is not accomplished possession is gained by the opposing team. The team continues its advance until a touchdown is scored or it loses the ball through a fumble or interception.
A professional football game lasts one hour divided into 15 minute quarters. Each half of the game starts with a kickoff, and each team is allowed three time-outs. The game is supervised by a referee, umpire, lineman, field judge, and back judge. Penalties resulting in a loss of 5 to 15 yards may be awarded for several offenses including "offside" (a player crossing the line of scrimmage before the ball is in play), illegal procedure (movement before play begins), "holding" (detaining an opposing player with the hands), "clipping" (blocking an opponent from behind), and pass interference (actively preventing an opponent from catching a pass).
Because football is a contact sport, professional players must wear a helmet with a face mask, a mouth piece, knee pads, and thigh and shin guards. They also wear special cleats and jerseys with the team color and each player's number on the front and back.
Football in the United States was first played by English colonists in 1609, but the game was not taken up as a college sport until 1867, when Princeton drew up its own rules for the game. The first professional league game was played on August 31, 1895 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The National Football League (NFL) was created in 1922 and has since dominated the sport of professional football. Recreational variations on the standard game include "flag football," where players wear flags that are confiscated by the opponent in lieu of a tackle. This reduces the rough body contact of the game and the need for safety equipment. Football has become not only a highly regarded collegiate sport, but the most watched professional team sport in the United States and a recreational game enjoyed by backyard enthusiasts everywhere.
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