When you watch professional football leagues on television channels, you can notice that a team continues to play even after it is over. What makes the team play again? This is where a touchback comes into play.
A touchback in football is when the ball leaves the field after a kick or punt and reaches the opposing team’s end zone (beyond the 20-yard line).
There are several situations causing touchback. Each version of football has unique perspectives about touchback. Let’s look at it in detail in this article.
- What Causes Touchback
- Touchback In Different Leagues
- Touchback In College Football
- Touchback In High School Football
- NFL Touchback Rules
- Revised NFL Touchback Rules
- How Many Points Is A Touchback In Football
- Is A Touchback In Football Good
- Touchback vs. Safety
- My Favorite Football Equipment
What Causes Touchback
A touchback happens when the ball moves away from the opponent’s field and restarts an offensive drive beyond the 25-yard line.
In cases when it is difficult to identify a ball that left the field, a touchback is announced.
Here are the common situations when a touchback can happen
When a player from the receiving team grabs hold of the ball and leaves the field (beyond the end zone), the referee announces a touchback.
As soon as the player moves away from the field, the referee halts the play immediately. The play restarts once the ball is on the 25-yard line.
The problem here is that the player drops a knee down and the offense of the receiving team returns to the field. On the other hand, the defense of the kicking team will also join and restart the game.
Kickoff is a common situation resulting in a touchback. If you look at college football, it is mandatory to return the kick as soon as the player receives one. This is also attributed to the strength of the legs.
Fumbling away from the endzone is another cause resulting in an offensive touchback. While the chance of this type is rare, it is still likely.
When the player fumbles and the ball leaves the field, the opposing team is allowed to restart the play at the 25-yard line.
When the ball punts away from the opponent’s end zone, a touchback is declared. The punting team makes acrobatic moves to prevent the ball from reaching the goal line.
During a punt, it is essential that a ball remains out of bounds or within the field, as these scenarios negate a touchback.
Here is an example of a punt resulting in a touchback:
The game restarts on the 20-yard line during a punt. Otherwise, it restarts only at the 25-yard line.
The defensive team makes an intentional kick during a blocked punt. In that instance, the offense has to deny a penalty.
Touchback In Different Leagues
Touchback is commonly used in American, six-man, and eight-man football but is not evident in Canadian football.
The NCAA has designated touchback rules for high school American football and is limited to a 20-yard line. On the other hand, a touchback is limited to a 15-yard line in six- and eight-man football leagues.
Canadian football does not use touchback and awards a point to the kicker whenever the situation causing a touchback arises. Further, the team receives a point when the receiver grabs the ball from the 35-yard line. Canadian football also prioritizes treating the ball when the ball has reached the end zone due to the player’s momentum.
It is clear that touchback is not a term used in all levels and leagues. Perhaps, football associations in respective countries decide when a touchback needs to be considered. Hence, NFL rules do not apply everywhere.
Touchback In College Football
The touchback rules in college football are similar to NFL, except for developing a ‘fair catching’ regulation. When a kickoff results in a fair catch, it becomes a touchback.
Let us say that the ball reaches a location between the 25-yard line and the goal line! This is exactly where a touchback is declared as per the college football rule.
The purpose of this rule is to enhance player safety. As players at the college level are highly athletic, their kickoffs can potentially add danger to opponent team players. To prevent the likelihood of an injury, the clause of a fair catch was introduced.
Touchback In High School Football
A touchback is declared in high school football when the ball crosses a 15-yard line. This is ideal for six-man and eight-man football games that are played on 80 yards.
Whenever the ball crosses the goal line due to a kick, it is a touchback. The only bottom line is that it should not be a successful field goal.
NFL Touchback Rules
The National Football League (NFL) has presented several rules to clarify the confirmation of a touchback.
- A touchback is awarded when the returner drops a knee down and catches the ball towards the end zone. This rule works for kicks and punts.
- A touchback is declared when the ball reaches the end zone or gets kicked. However, it also applies when a ball gets in contact with a crossbar or a goal post.
- When the blocked punt enters the opponent’s end zone, the offense has to deny the penalty.
- A touchback is declared upon ball interception by a defensive player in the respective end zone.
- Fumbling the ball is regarded as a touchback when this ball reaches the opponent’s end zone.
The NFL has drafted rules to upgrade players’ safety and flexibility of the game. However, these were revised further.
Revised NFL Touchback Rules
The touchback rule remains similar to prior except for the introduction of a few novel clauses like a fair catch. NCAA engaged in drafting and revising rules of the NFL to enhance the play.
The NCAA pushed the boundary from 20 to 25-yard line in 2012. However, NCAA and NFL assumed that better field positions could enhance touchbacks and lower returns. Unfortunately, this resulted in forceful kicks at unexpected heights. Some forceful kicks were dangerous, and such return plays affected the safety of players. Capitalizing on high altitudes and strength was likely to cause damage to the opponent team.
The new rule of the NFL eliminated the need for a kneel in 2018. It is unnecessary to take a knee towards the goal line or the end zone to receive a touchback. The purpose of this revision is to lower collisions between players as they run towards catching the ball.
The NFL insists that the carrier of the ball is not permitted to enter the end zone again if he has already gone beyond the goal line. This is the case of a safety penalty, and it can become a risky affair for other players involved.
The development of these rules (NFL and NCAA together) improved the quality and performance of players.
How Many Points Is A Touchback In Football
A touchback means no points, and the recovering team takes the ball back to resume the game.
It is widely assumed that every touchback means a point is awarded to the respective team. However, a kickoff or a punt does not result in any point.
Is A Touchback In Football Good
Touchback is good and safe as the player gets free yardage and benefits the offense team. Further, the kicking team gives the opponent team no chance to get a touchdown. This benefits the kicking team as well.
Otherwise, a touchback is not beneficial to the defense team as the offensive player kicks off or catches a punt towards the end zone. This stops the ball from advancing further.
Another reason to term a touchback good is that it lets the player start from the 25-yard line. There is no need to run and follow the ball as it leaves the field.
Touchback vs. Safety
A touchback occurs when the ball leaves the field due to a kick or a punt, but safety in football works contrarily. The latter happens when the offense makes a foul towards the end zone and kicks the ball out of bounds.
When the player remains around the end zone, safeties are more likely to happen as the tackled player takes charge of the ball’s movement. However, when the defensive player tries to tackle the offensive player, who is trying to leave the zone, the offensive player is immediately ruled down.
Here are the common causes of safeties in football:
- The ball was carried earlier outside the end of the zone.
- The ball was downed in the past and possessed.
Contrary to these causes, a touchback means that the ball is not possessed earlier, and the carrier downs the ball within the end zone.
The final difference between a touchback and safety in football is points. There are no points awarded to players engaging in a touchback. Contrarily, the defense gets two points in safety, and the offense needs to let the ball go off. This happens with a free kick to acknowledge the passing of the ball. This is a common tradition followed if a safety scenario happens in football.
My Favorite Football Equipment
Thanks for reading this article. I hope it brought you great value you can implement in your life. Finally, below you can find my favorite football equipment that I think would serve you well on the field!
- Football: I like to get quality things at once, so I don’t need to replace everything after a short while. And for that reason, Wilson “The Duke” Football is the only choice for that. You can get this authentic NFL football as an official game ball or a cheaper metallic edition version. Whichever you might choose, The Duke is the only official football in the league’s history, making it the best choice.
- Cleats: Cleats play an important role in football as they are the traction between you and the field. There is no better than the Nike Vapor Edge Pro 360, and for a good reason. The cleats feature a lightweight, short upper, supporting lacing system and a wide stud layout for fast speed and reliable traction. Oh, and all the various designs are beyond stunning!
- Gloves: No matter whether you throw or receive the ball, you can say goodbye to your performance if you don’t have proper gloves. Enter Seibetron Receiver Gloves equipped with various benefits, such as excellent grip on the fingers and palms, great durability, and a green light for machine washing!
- Fan Equipment: If you’re a fan more than a player, you don’t want to miss Fan Equipment by Fanatics. You can find items from various sports that bear your favorite team’s logo, such as jerseys, gift ideas, or other surprising things.