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Football Assisting The Runner Penalty

Football Assisting The Runner Penalty

An assisting the runner penalty is when an offensive teammate illegally pulls or lifts and carries a runner with the ball to advance them. The penalty results in a 10-yard penalty in the NFL, or a 5 yard penalty in college and high school leagues.

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Definition

The assisting the runner penalty, also known as helping or aiding the runner, is called when an offensive player pulls a runner carrying the ball in any direction, or when they physically lift and carry a runner in an attempt to advance them forward.

In reality, assisting the runner is a rare and difficult penalty to call because the actions it describes are typical behaviors of how the game is played as a contact sport. An attempt to pull or carry the runner forward also has to successfully gain yardage, and it normally does not. Referees will usually only call this penalty when an instance of pulling or lifting the runner is obvious and plain to see. In messier and less clear situations, most notably pushing the pile, a referee will opt not to give this penalty.

As a penalty, assisting the runner has been very rarely called in games. The last time it made an appearance in a playoff game was in 1991 between the Chiefs and the Bills, when Chiefs center Tim Grunhard blatantly pulled runner Robb Thomas down the field as Thomas was being tackled. 

Assisting the runner is defined somewhat differently across the leagues. For a long time, pushing as well as pulling the runner was universally prohibited, but the NFL made it legal in 2005 to push the runner to advance them forward. In 2013, the NCAA followed suit and excluded mentions of pushing, defining it instead as just pulling or lifting the runner. In high school leagues, pushing the runner to gain yardage is still illegal.

The rule has stayed in place mainly to prevent the offensive team from gaining unfair yardage. To a lesser extent, it also protects the runner from being tackled for a prolonged period of time, which can put them at a higher risk of injury.

Result

PenaltyNFLNCAAHigh SchoolCFL
Assisting The Runner10-Yard Penalty5-Yard Penalty5-Yard Penalty 10-Yard Penalty

Penalty Signal

football penalty signal assisting the runner

To signal an assisting the runner penalty, the referee pushes both palms forward by their waist with hands pointing down. The signal is also used for interlocking interference

Examples

  • An offensive player tugs the jersey of a runner with the ball and drags them forward.
  • A teammate lifts and carries the runner down the field.

Similar Penalties To Assisting The Runner

FAQ

What is the penalty for assisting the runner in football?

If a player is called for an assisting the runner penalty in the NFL, it will result in a 10-yard loss for their team. In all other levels of play, including college and high school football, the penalty for assisting the runner is a 5-yard loss.

What is assisting the runner penalty in football?

In football, the assisting the runner penalty occurs when an offensive player pulls a runner carrying the ball in any direction or lifts and carries a runner to advance them forward. This penalty is also known as the aiding the runner penalty, and it is a rare call since most of the actions it describes are normal parts of football as a contact sport. The penalty is 10 yards in the NFL and CFL, 5 yards in the NCAA and most high school leagues.

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