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Football Intentional Grounding Penalty

football intentional grounding penalty

An intentional grounding penalty in football involves a mistake made by the quarterback, who is throwing the ball. This type of penalty often occurs when the quarterback is trying to avoid being tackled by opposing players. This penalty helps deter quarterbacks from making unrealistic throws to avoid losing yardage from getting sacked.


This penalty is committed by the quarterback while playing on offense. In order for the penalty to occur, the quarterback must be inside the tackle box and behind the line of scrimmage. The tackle box is an area in between the two outside offensive linemen on the line of scrimmage. This penalty occurs when a quarterback throws an incomplete pass toward an area of the field where no receiver is present. It can also occur when a quarterback throws an incomplete pass that never crosses the line of scrimmage.

This penalty can occur at any point in a football game. It is often called when a quarterback is trying to avoid the repercussions of being sacked behind the line of scrimmage. Trying to throw the football away to avoid losing yardage can be seen as unfair for the opposing team. The only exception to this penalty is when a quarterback spikes the football right in front of them to stop the game clock. This penalty is fairly uncommon with an average of 1.16 times called on teams per season.


Intentional GroundingLoss of Down, 10 yards from the previous spotLoss of Down at the spot of the foul 5 Yards, Loss of DownN/ALoss of Down

When an intentional grounding penalty is called, a few different results can occur based on the different leagues or level of play. It is most common for a team to lose a down and/or lose yards from the spot of the foul.

Penalty Signal

football penalty signal intentional grounding

When this penalty is called, a referee immediately initiates a whistle and goes to the middle of the field. They announce that the penalty is intentional grounding on the quarterback while beginning the penalty signal. This signal starts with the referee holding their hands parallel to each other near their right shoulder. The referee motions the penalty by moving their diagonally up and down across their body. During the motion, the referee is supposed to keep their hands parallel to each other the whole time.


  • A penalty doesn't occur when a quarterback runs out of the tackle box and throws an incomplete pass to an open space where no receivers are located.
  • A penalty does occur when a quarterback stays in the tackle box and throws an incomplete pass to deep and no receivers are located there.
  • A penalty does occur when a quarterback leaves the tackle box and intentionally throws an incomplete pass short of the line of scrimmage.