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Football Illegal Crackback Penalty

Football Illegal Crackback Penalty

An illegal crackback penalty is called on an offensive player in football when a crackback block is not executed properly. Crackback blocks are a strategy used in football, most often by receivers, to free up the edge for a running back. The receiver begins wide and then runs back towards the ball after the ball has been snapped.


An illegal crackback block penalty occurs when a player committing a crackback block makes contact below the waist. This puts the player getting blocked at risk for a gruesome injury. Crackback blocks aim to stop defenders in their tracks in order to allow an offensive player with the ball to get around the defender. Therefore, this penalty is called on offensive players during a play.

In the past, players were allowed to completely take out defenders in order to commit a successful block and free up the edge for their running back or ball carrier. This resulted in countless injuries to defenseless defenders who were blindsided by the hit. This penalty was created to protect defenders.


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When an illegal crackback penalty is called, the result is 15 yards. This means that the offense is moved back 15 yards from where the previous play began.

Penalty Signal

football penalty signal illegal crackback

When an illegal crack back penalty is called, the referee uses their right hand to signal the penalty. The referee opens his right hand, so that their palm is facing outwards, extends their arm out laterally, and then moves it directly down against their thigh.

An illegal crackback block is considered a personal foul, so prior to signaling the illegal crackback block, the referee signals a personal foul. To signal a personal foul, the referee puts their left arm above their head, and uses their right wrist to strike it.


  • When the ball is snapped, the ball is pitched to a running back who then heads to the right side of the field. A wide receiver on that side of the field sees a linebacker that is running toward the running back. The receiver runs back toward where the ball was snapped from and dives toward the linebacker's legs. The receiver makes contact with the linebacker's knees. An illegal crackback block penalty would be called on the receiver, and the offense would lose 15 yards from where the previous play began.
  • A receiver goes in motion from one side of the field to the other. When the ball is hiked, the ball is handed to the running back who runs towards the receiver. To attempt and clear the edge for their running back, the receiver dives at a player running full speed. The defender does not see the hit approaching and unfortunately the receiver makes contact with the defender's ankle. This is very dangerous and an illegal crackback block penalty is called on the receiver.

Similar Penalties To Illegal Crackback