How Many Footballs Are Used in An NFL Game?

By Casey 7 Min Read
7 Min Read

Understanding the specifics of footballs used in NFL games not only enhances our appreciation for the sport but also illuminates the intricate logistics and regulations that govern professional football. Let’s explore in detail the number, type, and maintenance of footballs in the NFL.

How Many Footballs Are Used in An NFL Game?

Official Requirements

  • Offensive Usage: According to NFL rules, each team is required to bring 12 footballs that they use while on offense. This ensures that each team plays with balls they are accustomed to.
  • Kicking Balls: Apart from these, the NFL ball manufacturer, Wilson, supplies 8 new balls directly to the officials for each game. These balls are exclusively used for kicking plays.
  • Backups and Special Circumstances: The home team is responsible for providing an additional 12 backup footballs. During special events or significant games, specially marked commemorative footballs may also be used.

Total Count

  • Primary and Backup Footballs: Including primary and backup footballs, the total can exceed 24, but the key focus is on the 12 game balls and 12 kicking balls used in gameplay.

Maintenance and Inspection

Pre-Game Preparation

  • Inspection: All footballs are inspected and approved by game officials before the match to ensure they meet the league’s standards for size, weight, and inflation pressure.
  • Inflation and Weight: The balls must be inflated to a pressure of 12.5 to 13.5 psi and must weigh between 14 and 15 ounces.

In-Game Monitoring

  • Continuous Oversight: During the game, officials monitor the footballs to ensure they remain in proper condition and comply with the standards.

Factors Influencing Football Usage

Impact of Various Factors

  • Playing Surface: The type of surface, whether turf or natural grass, affects a football’s durability.
  • Intensity and Weather: High-intensity games and harsh weather conditions can necessitate more frequent ball replacements.

Read: How Many NFL Stadiums Have Real Grass?

Managing Footballs During a Game

Coordination and Challenges

  • Team and Official Coordination: Effective communication between teams and officials is crucial for smooth transitions between different footballs used during the game.
  • Monitoring and Risk Management: With multiple balls in play, there is a risk of loss, misplacement, or tampering. Officials and equipment managers closely monitor the footballs to mitigate these risks.

Looking deeper into the history and regulation of footballs in NFL games provides a fascinating insight into how this essential aspect of the sport has evolved over time, emphasizing the league’s commitment to maintaining the integrity and fairness of the game.

Historical Development

american football evolution
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Early Years and Standardization

  • Initial Variations: In the early days of professional football, there were no standardized footballs. Teams often used balls of varying sizes and shapes, leading to inconsistencies in gameplay.
  • 1941 Standardization: The NFL mandated uniform specifications for footballs in 1941 under Commissioner Elmer Layden. This was a pivotal move towards ensuring uniformity and fairness in the sport.

Modern Evolution

  • Over the years, the NFL has continued to refine and adapt its rules regarding football specifications. These changes reflect technological advancements, a focus on game integrity, and a desire to optimize performance and safety.

Specific NFL Football Regulations

Size, Weight, and Inflation

  • Specifications: NFL footballs are required to have a specific size, weight, and inflation level. They must weigh between 14 and 15 ounces and have a circumference of 20.875 to 21.25 inches, with an inflation pressure of 12.5 to 13.5 psi.


nfl football dimension
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Inspection and Approval

  • Pre-Game Inspection: Before each game, officials rigorously inspect the footballs to ensure compliance with these standards.
  • Ongoing Monitoring: During the game, the condition of the footballs is continuously monitored to prevent tampering and ensure they remain within regulation specifications.

Role of Footballs in Game Dynamics

Impact on Gameplay

  • Performance Factors: The condition of the footballs significantly influences the game, affecting key elements like throws, catches, and kicks.
  • Ensuring Fairness: Uniformity in footballs is crucial to maintaining a level playing field, allowing all teams to compete under the same conditions.

Adaptability and Challenges

  • Weather Adaptability: NFL footballs are designed to perform consistently under various weather conditions, ensuring reliable gameplay regardless of environmental factors.
  • Logistical Challenges: Managing the rotation and condition of multiple footballs during a game requires precise coordination and attention to detail, posing unique logistical challenges.

Read: How Much Do a NFL Football Cost? Check The Price by Category

Retirement and Commemoration

Post-Game Handling

  • Retirement Criteria: Footballs are retired from use based on specific criteria such as game usage, surface damage, and air pressure changes.
  • Commemorative Footballs: In special events or significant games, commemorative footballs are often used and later kept as memorabilia or given to players and fans.

Final Words

The journey from varied, unstandardized footballs to today’s rigorously regulated equipment highlights the NFL’s dedication to fairness, quality, and the overall integrity of the sport. This change has been crucial in shaping professional football into the highly respected and meticulously organized sport it is today.


How has the regulation of footballs changed over time?

The NFL has continually updated its football regulations to ensure uniformity in size, weight, and inflation, adapting to advancements in technology and gameplay needs.

Why is the consistency of footballs important in NFL games?

Consistency in footballs ensures fairness in gameplay, as all teams compete under the same conditions, and it affects the performance of players in key aspects of the game.

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