The unnecessary roughness penalty is a personal foul designed for the purpose of player safety. There is a large umbrella of plays and examples that will result in unnecessary roughness being called, but is most notably called when a defensive player makes contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless player. The result of the penalty is 15 yards with an automatic first down (if the offending player is on defense).
Unnecessary roughness is defined as an illegal action where a player uses unnecessary methods to tackle or block another player. Unnecessary roughness is most typically called when there is a hit by a defensive player to a defenseless player's head or neck area or when a defensive player leads with his helmet into a tackle, whether or not the player he is tackling is considered to be defenseless.
A player is considered to be defenseless:
Unnecessary roughness is also called in the event of a late hit or a malicious hit away from the play and can be called on either a defensive or offensive player. Late hits are most commonly observed when a defensive player unnecessarily hits the ball carrier as he is going out of bounds, when there is a delayed hit on the quarterback while he is sliding, or when there is a hit on a punt returner after a fair catch is signaled.
|Unnecessary Roughness||15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down||15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down||15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down||15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down||10 Yards|
In all leagues and levels of play except for the AFL, where the result is 10 yards, the result of an unnecessary roughness penalty is 15 yards and an automatic first down. However, if the officials deem the hit to be "flagrant," they can eject the offending player from the game.
This rule is slightly different at the NCAA level. If the officials deem the hit to be "targeting," the penalty is 15 yards and an automatic ejection for the offending player. Targeting is called on any play where there is a hit to the head or neck area of a defenseless player or when contact is initiated with the helmet of the tackler.
Unnecessary roughness falls under the umbrella of a personal foul. When the penalty occurs, the referee will call a personal foul and make the personal foul signal, which consists of putting one wrist on top of the other, followed by announcing unnecessary roughness.