What is a Muffed Ball in Football?
A muffed ball/catch in football occurs when the ball is dropped by a returner on a kick or punt play. Muffed balls can often result in the kicking team regaining possession of the ball, as once the ball contacts the receiving player and hits the ground it is up for grabs.
Muffed Ball Recovery
When a kick returner muffs the ball and it hits the ground, the ball is live and can be scooped up by the kicking team. If the kicking team recovers the ball, the kicking team regains possession of the ball and the offense begins its drive from the spot in which the ball was recovered. A member of the kicking team can also pick up the ball and begin running with it in an effort to score a touchdown.
If the receiving team recovers the ball (the ball can be recovered by the player who initially muffed it or by a nearby teammate), the player that recovered the ball can also begin running upfield to try and salvage some yards for the team and put the offense in a more manageable position. If the player is forced to fall on the ball in order to keep possession, the ball is dead and the receiving team sends out its offense to begin a drive from wherever the ball was recovered.
What Causes a Muffed Ball?
Muffing a catch can happen for a number of reasons, including but not limited to the following
- The ball is kicked extremely high and the returner loses sight of it
- The returner is blinded by the sun and cannot track the ball as it falls from the sky
- A perfect kick is made in which the ball has lots of backspin, making it harder to catch
- The returner is in poor position and the ball is kicked well in front of or behind the returner, forcing him to rush towards the ball and attempt a difficult catch
- Simple mistakes, such as taking the eye of the ball or trying to run upfield before the ball has actually been caught
- The returner is hit by a member of the kicking team (fair catch was not called), causing the ball to pop out as the returner is attempting a catch