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Football Kick Catch Interference Penalty

Football Kick Catch Interference Penalty

The football kick catch interference rule prohibits members of the kicking team from interfering with the player on the receiving team attempting to catch the football. A player will be penalized with a loss of 15 yards from the spot of the foul if interference is made with the player attempting to catch the airborne ball.

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Definition

During punts and kickoffs, the kick returner on the receiving team has the right to attempt to catch the ball and return it without being hindered by players on the kicking team. This means that players on the kicking team are not allowed to make contact with the receiver before or simultaneous to his touching of the ball, though they can contact him afterwards. Additionally, players on the kicking team may not obstruct the receiver’s path to catching the ball. The catch interference penalty will be called if a player on the kicking team either makes premature contact with the receiver or obstructs his path to receiving the ball.

Kick returners also have the right to attempt a “fair catch” without interference from members of the kicking team. A fair catch means that the receiver plans to catch the ball but has no intention of returning it. The fair catch is signaled by a player fully extending his arm above his helmet and waving it from side to side. In the same manner that players on the kicking team may not interfere with a receiver attempting to catch the ball with intentions to return it, members of the kicking team are also not allowed to hinder a player attempting to make a fair catch.

Result

PenaltyNFLNCAAHigh SchoolCFLAFL
Kick Catch Interference15 Yards15 Yards15 Yards15 YardsN/A

The result of a catch interference penalty is a loss of 15 yards from the spot of the foul. The offended team has the right to then put the ball in play with a snap from the line of scrimmage. For players who attempt a fair catch and have been interfered with, a fair catch is awarded even if they don't manage to catch the ball.

Penalty Signal

football penalty signal

For a kick catch interference penalty, the referee extends their arms forward with their palms exposed in a pushing motion.

Examples

  • A player on the receiving team is trying to return a punt. However, a player on the kicking team makes contact with the returner before he has a chance to catch the ball.
  • A player signals that he intends to make a fair catch. A player on the opposing team hits the receiver the moment he makes contact with the ball and disrupts his ability to make a fair catch.
  • A player is attempting to return a kickoff, but his path to catch the ball is obstructed by a member of the opposing team.

Similar Penalties To Kick Catch Interference

FAQ

What is the consequence for kick catch interference in the NFL?

In the NFL, interfering with a player attempting to catch on a punt or kickoff is 15 yards given to the returning team from the spot of the foul. This can be a huge blow to the kicking team, as a play that could have resulted in zero return yards ends up giving the receiving team 15 yards instead.

How much room does a kick returner get on a fair catch?

In the NFL, there is no strict rule regarding how much space a kick returner must be given during a fair catch. Rule 10 of the NFL states only that a kick returner who signals for a fair catch must not be contacted during reception of the kick. However, many kicking team members choose to stay back from a fair catch receiver in order to avoid a potential penalty for interference. NCAA Football previously implemented a “Halo Rule” requiring kicking team members to remain at least two yards away from a kick returner, but this rule was eliminated in 2003.

When did the NFL add the fair catch interference penalty?

The concept of fair catch interference was introduced to the league alongside the idea of a fair catch, which was implemented in 1921. While the specific acts and rules that indicate a kick catch interference has occurred during a fair catch have changed over time, the original concept has been in place for over 100 years. 

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