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Football Illegal Peel Back Penalty

Football Illegal Peel Back Penalty

An illegal peel back block penalty occurs when an offensive player blocks an opponent running toward their own endzone by approaching them from the back or side, or when an offensive player tackles that opponent below the waist. A penalty for an illegal peel back block is 15 yards.


An illegal peel back penalty is given when an offensive player blocks a defensive player who is moving towards their own endzone by tackling from behind or from the side, or by making contact below the waist. The penalty for an illegal peel back block is 15 yards.

Peel back blocks are particularly dangerous because a defensive running back can't see their opponent coming toward them, leaving them open for a blindsided tackle. In particular, contact made below the waist can be especially damaging to a player who is blindsided. A referee will call a penalty for an illegal peel back block after a play.

Peel back blocks are only legal in a select few instances. If an offensive player manages to use their near shoulder to make contact with a defensive player's front, not from the blindside, that block is legal and will not receive a penalty. The important thing is to not block from that offensive player's blindside, or to make contact below the waist.

Before 2013, peel back blocks were legal from a player's blindside so long as it was in the tackle box, but an infamous block on Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing prompted a formal change of the rule. In 2012, Jets guard Matt Slauson dove into the back of Cushing's legs from behind, causing a torn ACL which ended Cushing's season. Cushing's injury solidified the ban of peel back blocks from behind, the side, or below the waist.

The penalty against illegal peel back blocks is in place to ensure that a player in a defenseless position cannot be tackled from the blindside or below the waist and put at risk of excessive harm.


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Penalty Signal

Football Penalty Signal Illegal Peel Back Block

To signal an illegal peel back block, a referee swings both arms down to their knees and bends slightly at the waist.


  • An offensive player tackles a defensive player running to their own end line from behind.
  • An offensive player dives into a defensive player's knees when they are running towards their own end zone.
  • An offensive player shoves a defensive player from the side when they are running towards their own end line.