How many footballs are used in an NFL game? [Get 100% Info]

Written by Rupam Kumar

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Plainly speaking, without football, there is no NFL game. Football, after all, is not just the round object; it is the beating heart of the game. It is tossed, kicked, carried, and occasionally fumbled, acting as a pivot around which dozens of strategies are formed and plays are made. In the grand spectacle of an NFL match, much hinges on how well the football is handled. All these dynamics beg one highlighted question, how many footballs are used in an NFL game

NFL Football balls
NFL Football balls

The evolution of footballs used in the NFL is a fascinating journey marked by changes in design, materials, and the standardization of the footballs themselves. 

Each twist and turn in this tale has played a consequential role in determining the number of footballs used in an NFL game today. So, let’s explore.

How Many Footballs are Used in an NFL Game?

  • Evolution of Football Design and Materials

The initial football designs were very different from the sleek, aerodynamic offerings we see in current NFL games. They were large, roundish, hard to grip, and made from rudimentary, rugged materials. Over the years, these footballs have evolved, undergoing several adaptations in relation to size, shape, and material.

A bunch of Nfl balls
A bunch of NFL balls

The early footballs were largely made of pigskin, hence the common nickname “pigskin“.

Later developments introduced the use of rubber and cowhide, making the balls lighter and more durable.

Present-day footballs are now made with a combination of cowhide or synthetic materials, ensuring better grip and flight.

Standardized Footballs in the NFL

The NFL implemented standardized footballs primarily to maintain a level playing field. Previously, teams could bring their own balls, creating an element of variability and potential unfairness. Now, standardization deters any possible advantage that the “home” team might have by using familiar balls. Further, it helps in maintaining consistency in the game, which impacts the number of footballs needed per match.

ball lying on the ground
ball lying on the ground

How Many Footballs are Used in Each NFL Game?

There are 36 footballs used in each NFL game. Twelve footballs are brought to the game by each team, while the home team supplies an additional twelve footballs as backups. Twelve footballs are also available to the officials for kicking purposes.

Before kickoff, the referees check the footballs to make sure they meet all NFL regulations. The footballs need to weigh between 14 and 15 ounces and be inflated with 12.5 to 13.5 pounds of air.

NFL players
NFL players

Wilson footballs, the league’s official ball since 1941, are used by the NFL. Every NFL team receives roughly 780 game balls for the season, whereas Wilson produces about 700,000 footballs annually.

Official NFL Regulations on Football Usage

First and foremost, under the terms of the official National Football League rulebook, each team is required to have 24 footballs ready for an outdoor game and 12 footballs on standby for an indoor match. The rules are clear-cut, the objectives focused,

  • Making sure that the sport runs smoothly
  • Maintaining a level playing field for each competing team
  • Ensuring no game delay due to football shortage

Pre-game Inspections and Measurements

The rules are not just about the number of game balls available; it is also about their quality. Each football must pass through serious inspection procedures before the game. Every ball is carefully examined for weight, inflation levels, and general quality assurance. 

The high standards aim to,

  • Uphold the gameplay’s integrity and fairness
  • Secure the safety of player
  • Making sure outstanding performance during the game

The NFL regulations do not take lightly any departure from guidelines; including insufficient footballs used in an NFL game. Consequently, there could be several consequences for non-compliance,

  • Possible penalties during the game
  • Teams may face fines and penalties for non-compliance 
  • Potential disqualification for repetitive violations

The NFL’s system guarantees that the sport remains exciting, competitive, and above all, fair. Every football matters after all.

Factors affecting the number of footballs used in an NFL game

There are lots of factors that come into play. From the number of players in action per game and the game duration to variations in playstyles, everything influences the number of footballs used in an NFL game.

According to the NFL rules, each game requires at least 24 new balls. So, this quantity can increase based on the duration of the game, the playstyle of teams, and the number of players

Wilson NFL Ball
Wilson NFL Ball

Game conditions are another critical factor that adds to the science of football usage. Factors like humidity, temperature, and even the type of turf can impact a football’s durability. For case, games played in colder temperatures may require more balls due to deflation issues.

Research shows that a football’s inflation can drop by nearly 20% during colder climate games and vice versa in warmer environments. Therefore, to maintain fairness in the game, these pressure fluctuations are often compensated by swapping out in-use balls with fresh ones. This is a scientific regulation implemented to preserve integrity within the thrilling NFL games.

How do officials and teams keep track of football usage during the game?

Keeping track of football usage during an NFL game is a streamlined process that involves both the officiating team and the playing teams. Each team is responsible for providing a dozen game balls for testing two hours and 15 minutes before kickoff. 


  • The home team provides 12 primary balls, while the visitors offer 12 backups.
  • For games in cold weather, less than 50 degrees, an extra 12 balls per team are allowed.
  • Officials mark the balls with a unique stamp after their inspection to easily track them during the game.

In the NFL, maintaining the honesty of the game is fundamental. As a result, strict security protocols are in place to stop any unwanted modification or replacement of footballs. 

The game balls are stored under the close supervision of authorized league officials after approval. These referees supervise the balls until they are turned over to the ball runners on each sideline, so there is no chance of manipulation before the game begins.

How do teams ensure compliance with NFL regulations?

Teams must also make sure that these footballs meet all NFL requirements, including those related to size, weight, and air pressure. This involves thorough planning before the game as well as ongoing inspections. 

NFL player cartoon
NFL player cartoon

It is an essential procedure that guarantees an even and seamless game. In a nutshell, the science underlying the use of football in NFL games is far more fascinating than you may have imagined.

Beyond the Game

After the dust has settled and the crowds have departed, what actually happens to those NFL game footballs? 

  • Handling of Game Balls after the Match

Once the final whistle has blown, the majority of the footballs used during the game are collected and taken back by the home team. They are inspected, carefully cleaned, and can be used again for practice sessions or even future games. This is mostly due to stringent NFL regulations that aim to reduce wastage and promote reusability.

Footballs are collected after the game by the home team. They are checked and cleaned thoroughly and they are reused for practice sessions or other matches

  • Record-breaking footballs are used in an NFL game 

Footballs that have been part of an NFL record-breaking play, or a particularly noteworthy moment, are typically sent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. These significant footballs form an integral part of the sport’s historical narrative and are preserved for future generations to admire.

Some special footballs are used in an NFL game sent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They are a part of the NFL sports history and heritage and they are put on display for fans and future generations.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How many footballs are used during the Super Bowl itself?

Ans: There are 228 footballs used in the Super Bowl. Each side will receive 54 footballs total, plus 12 footballs for kicking.

2. How many footballs are made each year for the NFL?

Ans: Wilson Sporting Goods, the NFL’s official football supplier, estimates that the league needs about 480,000 footballs produced per year. Practice balls and game balls are included in this.

3. Are NFL footballs reused?

Ans: NFL footballs are occasionally reused, although not often.

4. Can you keep an NFL football?

Ans: In general, no, an NFL football that hits the stands cannot be kept. All game balls are required to be returned to the NFL following a game, per league policy. This will guarantee that the balls can be examined and used again for other games.

5. Who provides footballs for NFL games?

Ans: Footballs used in NFL games are only supplied by Wilson Sporting Goods. Since 1941, the company has served as the league’s official football supplier. Wilson’s plant in Ada, Ohio produces all of the footballs used in NFL practices and games.

Final Note

Every play, from kickoffs to touchdowns, depends on these expertly made-spheres. But for every game, a remarkable 24 to 48 footballs are prepared, not just one or two.

All things considered, the number of footballs are used in an NFL game might seem like a small matter, but as can be seen, it is actually a fascinating and complex system that maintains this cherished sport functioning properly.

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