How many players in an NFL team: The different positions in American Football explained

How many players in an NFL team: The different positions in American Football explained

Grace Waruguru
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:25 PM

How many players in an NFL team play during a match? The National Football League is known for having populous teams, and fans are keen to learn why. Keep reading and see why each player is crucial to their team's operations and strategy.

How many players are in an NFL team?
Dallas Cowboys safety Jayron Kearse (With the ball) intercepts a pass during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on January 16, 2023, in Tampa, Florida. Photo: Cliff Welch
Source: Getty Images

How many players are in a football team? As NFL teams train their players, one of the objectives is to develop skilled teammates who can substitute for the main ones or even be on the reserve teams during a game. Find out how many players in an NFL team can be on the pitch and the roles they play.

How many players are there in an NFL team?

Different guidelines govern American football. So, how many players are in an American football team? Each team has 45-55 members, broken down into smaller sub-groups.

The players' roles and positions are specialized so that each one may hone their skills and learn everything about the pitch. The league's season also determines how many players in an NFL team will qualify for the final crew.

For example, pre-season starts with up to 55 players on the roster, but some teams have even 80 crew members. The teams then cut down members as the league progresses to the playoffs.

How many players on an NFL team are on the field?

How many players are there in an NFL team?
The Washington Football Team defense stops Philadelphia Eagles running back during the game at FedEx Field on January 2, 2022. Photo: John McDonnell
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When the selection is complete, 11 squad members play on the final team, playing the defence or offence. These individuals play during the regular season. College football teams can have up to 100 players.

NFL team positions

Whether they are playing the offence or defence, teams must ensure they are strategically located to put their best game forward. How many players are in an NFL team? Apart from the goalkeeper, here are the other NFL positions:

1. Quarterback

This is s significant position, and the player has to be aware of his team members and opponents to control the play effectively. He has to be strategic, a good thrower, and possess speed.

2. Offensive linemen

Every game must have five offensive linemen; left tackle, left guard, centre, right guard and right tackle. The centre is the captain of the offensive line. These positions block the defence so that the running back gains yards or the quarterback makes a touchdown pass.

3. Running back

How many players can an NFL team have?
Carolina Panthers defensive end Brian Burns enters the field during the game against the the Philadelphia Eagles on October 10, 2021, in Charlotte, NC. Photo: Andy Lewis
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The running back's role is to receive the ball from the quarterback and run towards rushing plays. They also block to allow for the quarterback on some passing plays. Running backs should be fast enough to escape linebackers trying to tackle them.

4. Fullback

The fullback is a blend of the offensive lineman and running back. They line up between the quarterback (behind) and the tailback (front). Their role is to cover for the running back; therefore, a fullback is also known as a blocking back.

5. Tight End

The tight end plays next to the offensive line, hence the name 'tight.' Their task is a hybrid of wide receivers and offensive linesmen. They must block, run, and catch exceptionally.

6. Wide Receiver

Individuals in this position are known for their catching passes. They jump to catch the ball and can grab it using one hand. They are the fastest players on the offence, working closely with the quarterback so that he knows where to throw the ball.

Wide Receivers should also possess a deceiving attitude to trick the opponent on their next move. This gives the receiver more room to catch and run with the ball.

7. Defensive linemen

How many players on an NFL team on the field?
Buffalo Bills Epenesa (57), Basham (55), Allen (17) and Brown (79) react while Damar Hamlin (3) is attended to during a game with the Cincinnati Bengals on January 2, 2023. Photo: Ian Johnson
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Defensive linemen start the play when the game begins, and a team has three of four. They are also known as defensive tackles. Their role is to stop a receiver or block a pass; hence, they need athletic capabilities.

8. Linebacker

Linebackers play behind the defensive line and are usually smaller and faster than them. They work closely with the other team members, primarily to communicate as they cover tight ends and some wide receivers.

9. Cornerback

Cornerbacks are positioned outside the defence and work to cover the offence's top receivers, keeping them from catching the ball by battling it down or getting in its way.

10. Safety

Together with the cornerback, safeties play behind the defence. They are the last line of defence and ensure no offensive player gets past everyone else. They read and patrol larger areas of the field.

Social NFL positions

Every team has specialized positions to perform unique responsibilities. These are:

1. Kicker

How many players are in an NFL team?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady waves to the crowd during a game with the Philadelphia Eagles on January 16, 2022, at Raymond James Stadium. Photo: Andy Lewis
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These players kick the ball off the ground at a kickoff, field goal, and Point After Touchdown (P.A.T).

2. Punter

A punter receives the snapped ball directly from the scrimmage line and kicks it to the opposing team, also known as punting, to limit field position advantage.

3. Kick Returner

The kick returner comes in when the kicker boots a kickoff, catches it and runs towards the opposing team's end zone. Most kick returners double as wide receivers or defensive backs.

4. Punt Returner

The punt returner catches the ball when the punter punts it to the opposing team. He can either elect to call for a fair catch, giving his team possession wherever he catches the ball.

5. Long Snapper

How many players are in an American Football team?
Dallas Cowboys offensive line across from the San Francisco 49ers defensive line during a game held on January 16, 2022, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Photo: Robin Alam
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The long snapper is a special kind of centre who snaps the ball between their legs to the punter or player, holding the ball for the kicker on field goals and Points After Touchdowns (PATs).

Can an NFL team play with 10 players?

You might have watched some games with less than 11 players on either side. So, how many players can an NFL team have? The maximum number of players can play on a team is 11, and one must be the goalkeeper.

The game can continue if they are 10, but not if they are less than seven. In case you are wondering how many players are allowed on an NFL team, 7 to 11 players are enough to get a game going.

NFL team member categories

How many players in an NFL team?
Aerial view of NFL logo on the field before Los Angeles Rams vs Cincinnati Bengals game at SoFi Stadium. Inglewood, on February 13, 2022. Photo: Kohjiro Kinno
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Before the pre-season and final roster cut, these are the different groups of team members on any NFL team roster:

  • Injured reserve: Comprises players who cannot play due to injuries. The NFL allows eight players to return from the injured reserve every season.
  • Practice squad: These players are not on the active roster but are available to practise with their team. The squad has up to 16 players who can sign up with any team in the league. Athletes with less than nine NFL games qualify to join a practice squad.
  • Inactive players: Injured players whose injuries are not severe enough to put them on the injured reserve.

Football fans have been curious to know how many players are in an NFL game and their roles. Whether your team has 7 or 11 players, ensure you sit back and enjoy every minute of the game throughout the season

READ ALSO: How many games are in an NFL season?

Sports Brief published an article discussing how many games are played in an NFL season. Since its formation in 1920 as the American Football League, the league has brought together millions of football enthusiasts.

How many games are in an NFL season? The regular season has 272 matches, with the pre-season running in August and the playoffs happening in January and February. Check out the above article for the details of the American Football season.

Grace Waruguru photo
Grace Waruguru
Grace has over 4 years of experience in article writing and digital media content creation for various local and global brands. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication (Public Relations) from Daystar University, Kenya.