A fair catch in football is a signal the returner can make to allow him to catch the ball on a kickoff or punt without being hindered by players on the opposing team. A fair catch is signaled by waving an arm in the air while the ball is in flight. If a player from the opposing team makes contact with a player who has called for a fair catch during a punt or kickoff, the player who made the contact will be penalized for fair catch interference, which is a 15 yard penalty.
The returner can signal a fair catch when returning a kickoff or punt. On a fair catch, the returner asks for an unhindered attempt at catching the kick. To signal a fair catch, the returner will hold his arm up in the air.
A fair catch signal cannot be faked by a returner as it poses a risk to both the returner and opposing players. An incomplete fair catch signal will result in a penalty against the offending player.
On a fair catch, the return ends immediately when the returner catches the ball.
|PRO TIP: On a fair catch, the returner is not required to catch the ball. If the returner decides not to catch the ball and then touches it, it's treated as a fumble.|
After a fair catch, the offense starts with the ball at the spot of the fair catch was signaled.
Players on the kicking team may not interfere with the returner's attempt at catching the ball. A penalty called Fair Catch Interference is given to a player that touches the player.