The kickoff returner in football is a player on the special teams whose goal is to catch and return kickoffs from the opposing team. There are normally two kick returners on kickoffs and one during punts.
The kickoff returner has one of two goals: return the ball to good field position for the offense about to take the field, or return the kick of a touchdown. While touchdowns are much more desirable, returners have to be careful they are not too sporadic in their return attempts, since fumbles and negative yardage runs are common on these plays.
Another mistake the returner often makes is muffing the catch. To muff means to mishandle the football as the catch is attempted which leads to the ball hitting the ground. Muffs can be caused by impending pressure from the return defenders or simply because the kick was high or hard to catch. Muffing a return is extremely detrimental due to the field position it can give the kicking team if they recover the fumble.
Returners usually opt to catch the ball rather than letting it bounce since a football's shape makes it unpredictable, however, some returns occur in this situation. Returners should also be cognizant of the out of bounds line, allowing a kickoff to go out rather than to catch it since a penalty would be issued for this offense.
The kick returner can signal a fair catch by waving their arm. Whenever they catch the ball after signaling a fair catch, the play is called dead and the team is given the ball at the spot of the fair catch. If the ball bounces into the endzone before the kick returner touches the ball, it is called a touchback and the team is given the ball at the 25 yard line. The returner can also take a knee in the endzone after catching the ball to signal a touchback.