Football: Rules for Player Safety
Because football is a full contact and dangerous sport, many rules are made to keep the players as safe from injury as possible. Violations and rules that involve the safety of players are listed below.
Running into the kicker (5 yards)
- A penalty called to protect the kicker from getting injured while kicking. Depending on the severity of the hit, the referee may also call roughing the kicker, which is a 15 yard penalty. Note: if the defender touches or blocks the ball, then the penalty is not called. Also, if the player is blocked into the kicker by an offensive player, then the penalty should not be called.
Tripping (10 yards)
- Players are not allowed to stick out their leg in order to trip another player.
Spearing with the helmet (15 yards)
- Players are not allowed to hit another with the top of their helmet. This especially applies to a quarterback throwing a pass, a receiver while catching a ball, a player on the ground, or a player already being tackled. A helmet on helmet hit is also illegal and can result in other penalties such as suspension or fines.
Fair catch interference (15 yards)
- Once a player calls for a fair catch on a punt return, the defenders may not touch him or the ball unless the ball touches the ground.
Piling on (15 yards, automatic first down)
- Once a ball carrier is down, other players may not jump onto him late or with too much force. If the referee determines the player used excessive force, then it is a 15 yard penalty and automatic first down.
Roughing the passer (15 yards, automatic first down)
- Since the quarterback is unable to protect himself while throwing the ball, there are rules about how the defenders can hit him. They cannot hit at his knees or at his head. They aren't supposed to drive him into the ground or slam him down. This is up to the referee and a lot of emphasis has been placed on keeping these star players from injury.
Roughing the kicker (15 yards, automatic first down)
- When trying to block a punt or field goal, the defender cannot touch the kicker. Depending on the severity of the hit, the referee may call roughing for 15 yards or running into the kicker for 5 yards. Running into the kicker is not an automatic first down. This doesn't count if the defensive player touches or blocks the ball or if they are blocked into the kicker by an offensive player.
Face mask (15 yards)
- You are not allowed to twist or pull on another players face mask. This is usually called when the face mask is grabbed during a tackle.
Chop block (15 yards)
- One player is not allowed to block the defender below the thigh at the same time that another player is blocking the defender up high.
Clipping below the waist (15 yards)
- This occurs when a player blocks below the waist from behind. This can cause injury when the player "rolls up" onto the players legs.
Illegal crackback block (15 yards)
- This is to prevent players in the backfield or wide receivers from coming into the tackle box area around the line of scrimmage and blocking a player from behind.
Unnecessary roughness (15 yards)
- Anytime that the referee feels that one player is trying to injure another, he may make this call. This includes tackling a player that is out of bounds or hitting a player that is already down.
Unsportsmanlike conduct (15 yards)
- This includes acts that are considered by the referee to be unsportsmanlike. It could include bad language, threatening gestures, arguing with the officials, or fighting.
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