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Football Striking, Kicking, or Kneeing an Opponent Penalty

Football Striking Kicking or Kneeing an Opponent Penalty

Striking, kicking, or kneeing an opponent in an unnecessarily rough way is a personal foul which can be called during or after a play. It results in a 15-yard penalty, potential player ejections, and an automatic first down if the foul is committed by the defense.


Striking, kicking, or kneeing an opponent is a personal foul that results in a 15-yard penalty, and an automatic first down when the foul is made by the defensive team. If the action is especially blatant, or if it is committed multiple times by the same player, that player may be ejected from the game. If both teams are guilty of the penalty, neither team is penalized in yards but players may still be ejected.

Although football is a contact sport, it is not a combat sport. Punching, kicking, or kneeing an opponent in an unnecessarily rough manner is illegal contact that results in a personal foul. Players also may not strike intentionally at an opponent's head or neck.

A referee can call a personal foul for striking, kicking, or kneeing an opponent during or after a play. Most often, it's called after a play because it can be difficult to separate all but the most flagrant offenses from regular football contact. In practice, this penalty is normally meant to prevent heat of the moment fights after a play.

The penalty for striking, kicking, or kneeing an opponent affords some exceptions for the line of scrimmage and for recovering a loose ball. At the line of scrimmage, a defensive lineman is allowed to fend off an opponent by pushing or placing a palm against the opponent's head and mask. However, players still cannot punch or strike opponents in a flagrant, unnecessarily rough manner. The same applies for recovering a loose ball, where space is also tight.

The penalty for striking, kicking, or kneeing an opponent is meant to protect players from harm, and to ensure the game doesn't devolve from sportsmanlike conduct.


Striking, Kicking, or Kneeing an Opponent15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down (Defense)15 Yards, Automatic 1st Down (Defense)15 Yards,Player Disqualified25 Yards,Player Disqualified15 Yards,Automatic 1st Down (Defense)

Penalty Signal

Football Penalty Signal Personal Foul

A referee uses a personal foul signal for a striking, kicking, or kneeing an opponent penalty. A referee will hold one arm at chest level parallel to the ground, and with the other make a chopping motion to the center of the arm.


  • Punching an opponent after a play has been called.
  • Striking or elbowing an opponent's neck or head with arms.
  • Kneeing an opponent in the midsection.