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Rules QuizYou make the call: How would you rule in these 10 punt situations?

You make the call: How would you rule in these 10 punt situations?

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Rule quiz answer discussion

Questions 1-3: Establishing Possession

Once a kicking team player has caught the loose ball with two feet down in bounds and the ability to make a football move, he is in possession of the ball. This kills the play with one exception. If a player’s momentum carries him into the end zone, the receiving team gets a touchback.

The kicking team player that has secured possession may drop the ball and the play is dead at the point he gained possession. It is irrelevant what happens to the ball after that, even if it bounces into the end zone.

Possession by either team effectively ends the kick. When a ball is touched by either team — a first-touch by the kicking team or a muffed punt by the receivers — it still remains nominally a kick until possession occurs.

Questions 4-5: Multiple first-touch spots

The receiving team has the option of getting the ball at the spot where the receiving team first touched the ball or at the dead-ball spot. If multiple kicking team players touch the ball prior to the receiving team touching it (or if the ball is dead before the receivers touch it), then each “first-touch” point counts. The receiving team would take the one most advantageous.

There is no penalty for an illegal bat on Team A, because the ball is not batted towards their opponent’s end zone.

Questions 6-7: Kicking team player out of bounds

When a kicking team player steps out of bounds (either on his own or if pushed), it is an illegal touch foul if he is the first player to touch the ball. It is a five-yard penalty from the spot of the touch, however, if the ball is illegally touched inside the 5-yard line, it is a touchback plus the 5-yard foul, giving the receiving team the ball at the 25.

If the player steps out of bounds and does not re-establish two feet in bounds, the ball is dead at that spot and no penalty is assessed. The player can be entirely in the field of play, but he is still considered out of bounds until the second foot comes down in bounds.

Question 8: First touch extends the half

The first touch by the kickers is a violation, not a foul, but it retains some properties of a flagged foul. It cannot be offset, but a first-touch violation gives the receiving team the option to extend the half by one untimed down from the spot of first touching.

Questions 9-10: Fumble after a first touch

Once the ball is touched by the kicking team there is nearly nothing that the receiving team can do to lose possession during the down. If the receiving team subsequently muffs the recovery or fumbles during the down, they can still retain possession by returning the ball to the first-touch spot.

However, if the receiving team gains possession after a first-touch violation, fumbles back to the kicking team, and commits a foul after the fumble recovery, the receiving team loses the ball. Since the penalty is enforced in relation to the kicking team’s recovery, the first-touch violation is disregarded.

Also, a personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct by Team B prior to a fumble can “carry over” the fumble to the dead-ball spot by rule. This is one of the rule provisions that ensures that a personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct foul isn’t declined. In this case, a first-touch violation is also disregarded, and the kicking team keeps the ball.

Ben Austro
Ben Austro
Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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2 thoughts on “You make the call: How would you rule in these 10 punt situations?

  1. Very fun and educational “punting” quiz. I enjoyed taking it and learning a) how little I know of all the more detailed NFL rules and b) how many detailed rules there are just in punting alone. Ay Caramba! Between this and PK’s writeup of Steratore’s crew it has definitely given me a better appreciation for the “third team”. Thanks.

  2. First of all, in regards to Q8, I am pretty sure the correct option isn’t listed. There is no provision for an untimed down except in the case of a penalty. B DOES have the option for a free kick, but that’s significantly different than an untimed down.

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