Football Ineligible Downfield Kick Penalty

Football Ineligible Downfield Kick Penalty

An ineligible downfield kick penalty is issued when a member of the kicking team, other than the gunners, crosses the line of scrimmage before a punt or kick is made. It results in a 5 yard penalty.

Definition

An ineligible downfield kick penalty is when a member of the kicking team, other than the two eligible players called gunners, crosses the scrimmage line before a punt or kick. It results in a 5 yard penalty.

Before a punt, players must abide by restraining lines, a specific formation that distinguishes active from inactive players when the ball is punted or kicked for the other team to receive. The kicking team’s players must stay behind the line of scrimmage. Restraining lines mandate that only two eligible receivers called gunners from the kicking team are allowed to go past the line of scrimmage before the ball is kicked. Like the kicker, the gunners are a part of the special teams unit. They are specially trained to run downfield to tackle the returner.

A player from the kicking team cannot be over 1 yard beyond the restraining line before the ball is kicked. There is a little but not much leeway for players on the kicking team. If a player on the kicking team blatantly passes that boundary, it renders the kick ineligible and results in a 5 yard penalty.

The ineligible downfield kick penalty is in place to ensure that the returners have a fair chance of catching the kick or punt for their team without being tackled immediately.

Result

PenaltyNFLNCAAHigh SchoolCFL
Ineligible Downfield Kick5 Yards5 Yards5 Yards5 Yards 

Penalty Signal

Football Penalty Signal Ineligible Kick Downfield

To signal a penalty for an ineligible kick downfied, a referee will raise one arm and touch or tap the top of their cap. They will then announce the offending player and the resulting penalty.

Examples

  • The kicking team’s lineman dashes out past the restraining lines as the punter approaches the ball to kick.
  • A kicking team’s tight end who is not an eligible receiver rushes out past the line of scrimmage before the ball is kicked.  

Similar Penalties To Ineligible Downfield Kick

FAQ

What is an ineligible downfield kick penalty in football?

In football, an ineligible downfield kick penalty occurs when a member of the kicking team, other than the gunners, crosses the line of scrimmage before a punt or kick is made. Restraining lines are different depending on what type of kick is occurring, but the offending member’s entire body must be 1 yard past the line of scrimmage to incur this penalty.

Can you challenge an ineligible downfield kick penalty?

Ineligible downfield kick penalties are not listed under the reviewable plays in the NFL rulebook, and thus are not able to be challenged by the coach. Whether an ineligible player was downfield during a pass is clearly stated as a non-reviewable play in the rulebook, and the same goes for an ineligible player downfield during a kick. This is a judgment call made by the on-field officials.

What is the penalty for an ineligible downfield kick in football?

In football, an ineligible downfield kick always results in a loss of 5 yards for the kicking team. The line of scrimmage depends on the play and any resulting loss of yardage before the punt play is called. An ineligible downfield kick penalty and a resulting loss of five yards occurs if a member of the kicking team, other than the gunners, crosses his entire body more than a yard past this line.