Football Illegal Touching of a Forward Pass Penalty

Football Illegal Touching of a Forward Pass Penalty

The penalty of an illegal touching of a forward pass is a form of penalty in football that can only be committed by the members of the offensive line or receivers. In an instance of this penalty, someone who catches the ball, but is not allowed to, will be flagged for an illegal touch of a forward pass. This penalty is most frequently called on wide receivers and offensive linemen.

Definition

An illegal touch can occur under two circumstances. In the first circumstance, a wide receiver who runs out of bounds and gets back in bounds before catching the ball is deemed illegal. Wide receivers cannot catch the ball if they are out of bounds and stay out of bounds, as this would be considered an incomplete pass. However, if a wide receiver comes back into the field of play after going out of bounds, and is then the first to touch the ball, a penalty will be called.

In the second possible scenario of the illegal touch of a forward pass, an offensive lineman can be deemed ineligible on the field, which disallows him from catching the ball. Typically, the referee indicates if any linemen on the field are eligible or ineligible receivers before the play starts. If a lineman is ineligible and catches a pass from the quarterback, they will be flagged. On batted passes (passes that leave the quarterback’s hand, but are batted off course by a defender), any offensive lineman is allowed to catch the ball since the ball was first touched by the defense after being passed.

Even if a receiver is pushed out of bounds by a defender, they cannot come back in bounds and contact the ball. This will still be grounds for an illegal touch of a forward pass. This rule is in place because once a player is out of bounds, he is considered to be not within the field of play. This means that he cannot be involved with the ball directly. On plays like punts, players on the kicking team can still make a tackle after going out of bounds, as long as they return in bounds as quickly as possible.

As with some other penalties in football, play does not automatically stop when an illegal touch is made. If the play continues past the illegal touch and the defense forces a turnover, they can then choose to decline the penalty and take possession of the ball.

Result

The result of an illegal touch of a forward pass varies among different leagues. In the NFL, NCAA, and NFHS (High School Football), the standard penalty for an illegal touch of a forward pass is a five-yard penalty. The NFL also gives a loss of down penalty if the receiver touches the ball after being out of bounds. In the CFL, the penalty for an illegal touch on a pass is 10 yards.

PenaltyNFLNCAANFHSCFL
Illegal Touching of a Forward Pass5 Yards, Loss of Down5 Yards5 Yards10 Yards

Penalty Signal

football penalty signal illegal touching of a forward pass

The signal of an illegal touch on a forward pass is the same as other illegal touch penalties. The referee will point to both shoulders repeatedly to signal a touch. They will then point an outstretched arm towards the offense for an illegal touch of a forward pass penalty.

Examples

  • A wide receiver goes out of bounds, comes back in, and then touches the ball after the quarterback has passed it, but it has not been touched by any defender.
  • An offensive lineman is not declared eligible prior to a play and then catches a pass during that play.
  • A defender pushes a wide receiver out of bounds, and the receiver comes back in and catches the ball after the quarterback has passed it, but it has not been touched by any defender.

Similar Penalties To Illegal Touching of a Forward Pass

FAQ

What is an illegal touching of a forward pass in football?

In football, an illegal touching of a forward pass penalty occurs whenever an offensive lineman or receiver who is not allowed to catch the ball receives a pass. A player can be disallowed from catching a ball for two reasons. Firstly, if they are a wide receiver, they cannot be allowed to catch a pass if they have gone out of bounds during a play, and then returned in bounds to make a catch. Secondly, if they are an offensive lineman who has not been declared an eligible receiver by the referee, they cannot catch the ball unless it is first touched by a defender.

Can offensive linemen touch a pass?

In most cases, offensive linemen cannot touch a pass. However, there are a few instances where they can. If a lineman declares before the play that they are eligible, they are then allowed to receive a pass. Also, if the ball is tipped in the air and a lineman catches it afterward, it is deemed legal.

What is the punishment for illegal touching of a forward pass in the NFL?

In the NFL, illegal touching of a forward pass results in a loss of five yards and a down. For example, if this penalty were to be called on a 2nd and 4, the offense will have their next snap at 3rd and 9. It is ultimately the referee’s job alone to determine whether a player meets the requirements of illegal touching.