Step 1: Score!
Watch for the referee signaling a touchdown, field goal, extra point, or successful try by raising their arms straight up over their head. Raising their hands above their head with palms together signals a safety.
Step 2: Spot penalties
Officials signal a personal foul by hitting one wrist with the other over their heads. If the ref tugs on an imaginary facemask in front of their face, that's a facemask foul. Illegal contact is signaled with an open hand extended forward. If the ref looks like a human "T" on the field, they're calling unsportsmanlike conduct.
Step 3: Spot more penalties
An illegally touched ball is indicated with a fingertips-tap on both shoulders. Illegal use of hands, arms, or body is called by grasping one wrist, the hand open and facing forward in front of the chest. Grabbing one wrist, the fist clenched, with the other hand in front of their chest means a holding foul.
Step 4: Too many men and delay of game
If you see too many men on the field, look for the referee to put both hands on top of their head. If the official is crossing their arms over their chest, he's calling a delay of game foul.
Step 5: Spinning arms
Spot a false start, illegal formation, or kickoff or safety kick out of bounds when the official spins their forearms in front of their body.
Step 6: Take a time out
Teams can take a time out only after the ref has crisscrossed their wrists above their head, with their palms open. If the ref follows that signal by putting one hand on top of their cap, it's a referee's time out. But if they follow by swinging an arm at their side, it's a touchback, meaning a team receives possession of the ball at its own 20-yard line.
Step 7: Refuse a penalty
If a team refuses a penalty, expect the official to wave their straightened arms on a horizontal plane, crossing them in front. They will also do this if a pass is incomplete, a play is over, or if a field goal or extra point is missed.
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