Kick-Off Out of Bounds . . .

Mark Zarb asks:  “Hi Ray!!! Just want to double check on the kick off out of bounds penalty. Latest statisticians guide I saw says “no penalty”, wondering if this was changed recently.”

A.  Mark, you are absolutely correct.  Here is the rule:

“When a kickoff goes out of bounds and the ball is awarded to the receiving team, no penalty or penalty yardage is recorded.  The receiving team may elect to take possession of the ball 25 yards from the spot of the kick or at the out-of-bounds spot.  Record an ‘out-of-bounds kickoff’ for the kicker.”

Kick Return and Penalty Inquiries . . .

Q –  Kickoff is caught 4 yards deep in the end-zone and is returned 28 yards to the 24. However, there is a flag on the play. It is a 10-yard penalty on the return.

The rules say to mark it off 15 yards ahead of where it was caught, so that would be the 11 yard line. “Half the distance to the goal” would put it at the 5 yard line.

How many Kick Return yards does the returner get credit for and why?

A – The returner gets credited for return yardage up to the point of the infraction.  So, in this case it would be a 15 yard return because the penalty occurred at the 11 yard line.  Then, the ball would be put in play at the 5½ yard line (I would use the six yard line in APBA – I always give the marginal benefit to the team with their back to the goal line).


Q – If it’s not a penalty, why does the Ref throw a flag on a kick out of bounds? 

It is a penalty . . . . it is just not a “distance” penalty, so no yardage is actually calculated for penalty purposes.  But the kicking team is assessed one penalty for no yards.

Sacks in the end zone…

Q – Ray, if a quarterback is sacked in his own end zone is the yardage lost from the line of scrimmage to the goal line OR from where he is brought down? For example, QB sacked for 9 yard loss from his own 1 yard line: 1 yard sack OR 9yard sack?

A – If a player is tackled in the end zone, on any play from scrimmage, he is only credited with a loss that would take him to the goal line.  So, in the example above, it would be scored as a one-yard sack.

Another Scoring Question . . .

Q – This one throws me regularly. Completed pass, with a penalty that reads Defense Unsportsmanlike Conduct – 15 yards from line. Should that be enforced AFTER the completion?

A – OK, unless this completion was for zero or negative yardage, the penalty is enforced from the end of the play – where the completion ended up.  If, however, the completion had been for, say, -3 yards on a screen pass attempt, then the penalty would be assessed from the original line of scrimmage.

And, keep in mind, if the original pass resulted in a first down, the offensive team would be credited with a passing first down AND a penalty first down because of the Unsportsmanlike Conduct call!

Scoring Rule – Illegal Tackle

Q –  RP 14:2

Kickoff returner is tackled by someone not on the field – awarded TD – does the entire return yardage get credited to the returner?


A – You can never be awarded a touchdown via penalty.  So, if in the opinion of the officials, the returner would have scored if not for the illegal substitution and subsequent tackle, and he is awarded a touchdown, he is credited with all the return yardage . . . and the player coming off the bench would most likely be disqualified for a flagrant and dangerous action.


Rules Question . . . Turnovers


If a pass is intercepted and the returner of the interception fumbles and loses that fumble is that a turnover for that team as well? Or are turnovers strictly applied to the offensive team at the start of a play where possession changes?



Chris – Once a player has clear possession of the football, fumbles it and it is recovered by the opposing team, it is a turnover.  And, yes, you can have multiple turnovers on the same play.  So, in the example you asked about, the offensive team would be charged with a turnover on the interception, and then the defensive team would be charged with a turnover on the fumble lost on the interception return.

A few more Rare Play Interpretations . . .

By Ray Dunlap

Q – RP18, Result 2: Punter slips in act of punting, dribbles punt which rolls dead 5 yds behind line.

A – This is actually credited as one punt for -5 yards.  This happened to Sean Landetta of the Giants in a playoff game in 1985!


Q – RP 18, Result 10: Snap sails over punter’s head, he recovers ball for 36 yd loss.

A – Score this as one rushing attempt by the punter for zero yards.  The center actually gets charged with a fumble and all other yardage is incidental.


Q – RP19, Result 2: Punter drops snap, then tries to kick ball on the run, he misses it completely, recovered by d1 15 yds behind line.

A – This is a fumble.  The punter gets charged with one run for zero yards.  All other yardage is incidental.


Q – RP 19, Result 11: Blocked punt rebounds to punter, who gains 9 yds.

A – When a punt or a field goal attempt is blocked and recovered by the offensive team behind the line of scrimmage, any running advance is treated as miscellaneous yardage, not rushing yardage.


Q – RP 19, Result 12: High, wobbling punt sails out of bounds 7 yds behind line.

A – This is scored as one punt for -7 yards.


Q – RP20, Result 5: Punt is partially blocked and rolls dead 12 yds beyond line.

A – If a “blocked” kick crosses the original line of scrimmage, it is not scored as a blocked kick.  In this case, this would be scored as one punt for 12 yards.


A Few More Rulings Questions . . .

Q – RP6, Result 3. Center snap hits QB’s helmet and ricochets into the arms of the HB who is immediately tackled for 3 yd loss.

A – Believe it or not, if that ball never hit the ground before the halfback caught it, it will be one rushing attempt for the halfback for -3 yards!


Q – RP7, Result 4: QB can’t handle snap, loose ball bounces up and is grabbed by o3 who gets hit and fumbles; ball rolls backward 16 yds where o9 falls on it.

A – This is a rushing attempt by the quarterback for zero yards.  The QB gets charged with a fumble.  The Offensive left guard gets one fumble recovery (because he had clear possession) and fumble return yardage of zero yards.  He also gets charged with a fumble.  The halfback (o9) gets credited with a fumble recovery, and no fumble return yardage.  All the backward yardage (-16 yards) is miscellaneous and is not counted for statistical purposes.


Q – Result 6: Overthrown safety valve pass is actually a lateral, offensive team doesn’t chase it, d8 recovers 8 yds behind line.

A – This is actually a fumble, charged to the quarterback and a recovery by the defensive corner-back.  The quarterback will be charged with one rushing attempt for a loss to the spot he threw the lateral.  Since the game result does not specify what that is, you would have to make an assumption.  And, it could not be an eight yard loss, because the would not result in a lateral.  Perhaps roll one die and use that number as the loss of yardage to credit to the quarterback on his rushing attempt.


Q – Result 9: Pass is blocked, rebounds to QB who is thrown for 11 yd loss. 

A – This is one pass attempt by the quarterback and one reception for the quarterback for an -11 yard completion.  Interestingly, Brett Favre’s first NFL completion was to himself!


Q – RP8, Result 2: Receiver makes catch … but spikes ball just before crossing goal line, it dribbles through end zone; Tb

A – Receiver gets credited with receiving yardage to the point of the fumble (in this case, the one yard line).  All other yardage is incidental.


Q – Result 6: Pass complete for 16 yds to o7, who attempts lateral to teammate, d11 falls on ball there.

A – Tight End gets credited with a 16 yard reception and a fumble and a fumble lost.    The Safety gets credited with a fumble recovery.


Q – RP12, Result 9: FGA. High snap sails past holder & kicker, holder finally recovers for 27 yd loss.

A – This is considered an “Aborted Play” and the holder gets credited with one run for zero yards.  The 27 yards lost is miscellaneous yardage and it not counted statistically.


Q – RP13, Result 2: FGA. Short kick is caught by d11 .. he returns it for TD

A – This is counted as a “Field Goal Return” by the d11 for a touchdown.  Statistically, this is considered a “Miscellaneous Return,” not a Punt Return.


Q – RP14, Result 4: Returner carries to d41YL … attempts lateral … ball bounces loose and is recovered by d6 at d39YL

A – Returner gets credit for all return yardage up to the spot of the lateral.  He also gets charged with a fumble and the d6 gets credited with a fumble recovery.  All other yardage is miscellaneous and not accounted for statistically.