Football Kickoffs

Chapter 6.6

After any successful score is made in football, teams change possession with a kickoff. Get ready to learn about kickoffs and how they work in football.


Kickoffs are one of the five ways teams change possession of the ball in football. You can think of kickoffs like reset buttons. They happen:

  • At the beginning of a game
  • At the beginning of the 2nd half
  • After any team scores points
  • At the start of overtime

Restraining Lines

We've already learned about the the line of scrimmage. Kickoffs do not happen on the line of scrimmage. Instead, they happen on restraining lines.

Rookie Road Football Restraining Lines Image

A restraining line is just like a regular yard line, but it shows where on the field the kicking team and the receiving team are to align. The rules of restraining lines are as follows:

Rookie Road Football Kickoffs Image

Onside Kicks

A legal kickoff is one that travels 10 yards. An onside kick is a type of kickoff that just meets the 10 yard minimum.

Onside Kick Strategy

The goal of an onside kick is for a team to maintain possession of the ball. If successful, the kicking team will recover the ball and the down cycle will start anew.

A team will never tell the opposing team they are going for an onside kick. It must be disguised just like a regular kickoff if they are to succeed.

The kicker will perform a kick that just meets in the minimum requirements of a kickoff, making it travel 10 yards. The kicker will attempt to make the kick difficult to catch, so that it gives players on the kicking team a chance to recover it.

Safety Kicks

A safety kick is just like a regular kickoff, except that it happens only after a safety is scored. On safety kicks the restraining line for the receiving team is placed 20 yards away from the 35-yard line instead of 10 yards away.

Rookie Road Football Safety Kick Image

PRO TIP: Not many people know about safety kicks. They just assume that a regular kickoff is performed after a safety is scored. It may look just like a regular kickoff, but the restraining lines are different!

Ball Goes Out-of-Bounds

What happens if the kickoff is kicked out-of-bounds?

If the ball is kicked out-of-bounds on the sidelines before reaching the end zones during a kickoff, the receiving team gets the ball on the 35-yard line.

If the ball is kicked out-of-bounds behind the goal line, it is considered a touchback. We will learn more about touchbacks in the next chapter.


On kickoffs, a player on the receiving team called the returner is waiting to catch the ball. In the next chapter, we will learn more about returns and the ways a returner can perform the return.

Search Results