Punt (football)

From Academic Kids

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Sauerbrun.jpg
Todd Sauerbrun, one of the NFL's top punters, punts the ball for the Carolina Panthers.
A punt is a play in Canadian football and American football in which the football is kicked downfield to the opposing team. If an offensive team has the ball too far away from the end zone to attempt a field goal, and is facing a fourth down (or a third down in Canadian football), and too far away from the first down marker, they may choose to punt the ball. This involves kicking the ball from a standing position after it has been snapped (usually a long snap). The purpose is to increase the distance that the opposing team must advance the ball in order to score a touchdown or a field goal.

In American football, the ball changes possession to the other team once it has been kicked. In Canadian football, possession does not change until the receiving team establishes possession; in that game, the punter (only) can recover his own punt. A player from the receiving team must be the first player to touch the ball after it has been kicked in American football; if the kicking team touches it first it is dead at the point that they touch it and the receiving team receives possession there. The only exception to this is that if the ball continues on into the end zone after the kicking team touches it then a touchback is called and the receiving team gains possession at their own twenty yard-line rather than at the point the ball was touched by the kicking team. Once a player from the receiving team has touched the ball, it is considered in play unless the receiver has signaled (by raising an arm) for a fair catch, in which case the ball cannot be advanced by the receiving team. The receiving team has the option of returning the punt, that is catching the ball and running it towards their goal. If the receiving team does not return the ball, the play ends, and the receiving team takes possession of the ball at the spot where the fair catch was made, the ball ceases to move on its own or is downed by the kicking team, or at the point where it crossed out of bounds, if it did so.

In Canadian football, a play in which a kicked ball enters the end zone and is not returned by the receiving team earns the kicking team one point, called a single or rouge. The receiving team then takes possession at its own 20, just as in the American game.

If a punt touches the ground inside the end zone in American football, a touchback is automatically awarded. However, if the same happens in Canada, the ball remains in play until it is downed by a player on either team or is run out of the end zone. If a member of the receiving team downs it in the end zone, or if a member of the kicking team other than the punter does so, a single is awarded to the kicking team. If the punter downs it in the end zone, the kicking team scores a touchdown.

If the receiving team drops the ball or touches the ball but does not catch it, it is considered a "muff" and may be recovered by either team. The defensive team may also attempt to block the punt, by rushing the punter instead of or in addition to trying to return the punt. If the receiving team succeeds in blocking the punt and the ball is touched behind the line of scrimmage, it is a free ball and either team can advance it (although it should be noted that if the punt was being attempted on the final down, fourth down in American football or third down in Canadian, the kicking team must advance the ball at least as far as the line of gain upon recovering it or the ball will go "over on downs" to the receiving team). If the kicked ball, despite being touched by the receiving team, nonetheless crosses the line of scrimmage on its own impetus, it is considered to have been "partially blocked" and the same rules apply as if it had not been blocked. If the rushing team fails to touch the ball but contacts the punter, this is a penalty which can be either five yards or fifteen yards and an automatic first down for the punting team depending upon the severity of the contact. If the rushing team succeeds in touching the kicked ball prior to its crossing the line of scrimmage, this penalty is not enforceable.

The current record for the longest punt in the NFL is 98 yards by Steve O'Neal on September 21, 1969.

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