What Does Punt Mean In A Football Game?

Football Punt

What is a Punt in Football?

In football, a punt is when the offensive team drop kicks the ball to the opposing team, generally on fourth down. The punter is the position responsible for punting on a football team. Punts are kicked in order to move the ball further away from the end zone the opposing team is attacking. Punting is a special teams play.

A punter’s goal is to punt the ball as far as possible and with the most hang time while avoiding kicking it out of bounds. The goal of a punt is to pin the opposing team as far away from the goal line as possible.

When Do You Punt in Football?

In football, teams most often punt on fourth down, which is the final down in the down cycle. More specifically, a punt is used on fourth down when a team is not within field goal range. Since fourth down is a team’s final down, and they have not gained the 10 yards needed to gain a first down, the offensive team will usually elect to punt in order to avoid turning the ball over on downs.

Why Do Teams Punt?

When an offense in poor field position has a lot of yards to gain and doesn't want to risk turning the ball over on downs, a punt is the best option. In this circumstance, they are too close to the end zone they are protecting, so a turnover on downs would be costly and allow the other team an easier scoring opportunity. Instead, they elect to punt the ball downfield and away from the end zone their opponent is attacking to help the defense.

Kicking Team Punt Procedure

Football Kicking Team

For a punt, players will set up on the line of scrimmage, just like any other play. However, the special teams units for both teams will come onto the field in preparation for the punt. At times, teams may even fake a punt to catch the defense off-guard.

To set up a punt, the offensive line gathers at the line of scrimmage and snaps the ball to the punter, who is positioned about 15 yards back from the line of scrimmage. During punts, the punters have blockers in front of them to stop the other team from blocking the punt, as well as gunners to run downfield and tackle the punt returner. The kicking team, or the team that is performing the punt, snaps the ball to the punter. Once they receive the football from the snapper, the punter will take two to three steps, drop the ball from their hands, and kick it before it hits the ground, hopefully managing a long and high kick to the opposite end of the field.

Receiving Team Punt Procedure

Football Receiving Team

During a punt, the team receiving the ball lines up as they would on any defensive play, but with one or more players, the punt returners, stationed deep in the backfield. The receiving team awaits the kick, and after the kick is made, the punt returner will catch the ball and attempt to return it as far down the field as possible without getting tackled. Returns in football are used to determine the starting position of the line of scrimmage. If the punt goes out of bounds, the ball will be placed at the spot where it went out.