What Is Roughing The Kicker In Football?

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What Is Roughing The Kicker In American Football?

Roughing the kicker is a penalty in American football that occurs when a player excessively contacts or tackles the opposing team’s kicker during or immediately after the latter’s kicking motion.

What Is The Penalty?

The penalty usually results in 15 yards being assessed against the offending team and occasionally an automatic first down for the opposing offense.


Several different situations can lead to a roughing the kicker penalty being called. One common scenario is when a defensive player hits a kicking specialist (i.e., the “kicker” or “punter”) while he is still in the process of kicking the ball. This contact can occur either before or after the ball is released from the kicker’s foot.

Another potential infraction occurs if a defender hits a kicker who has already kicked the ball and is in the process of falling to the ground. This type of penalty is often referred to as a “late hit.”

How The Rule Is Enforced

In most cases, the decision to call a roughing the kicker penalty is left up to the discretion of the game officials. However, there are certain instances where the penalty is mandatory.

One such instance is when a defensive player hits a kicker in the head or neck area with his helmet (a so-called “helmet-to-helmet” hit). Another mandatory roughing the kicker penalty occurs when a defender tackles a kicker who has clearly signaled for a fair catch on a punt return.

How a Roughing The Kicker Penalty Can Impact Your Team

While these penalties are relatively rare, they can significantly impact a football game’s outcome. In some cases, a single roughing the kicker penalty can result in an automatic first down for the opposing offense.

This is especially likely to occur if the offending team is assessed a 15-yard penalty. As such, teams will often be very careful not to commit this infraction, even if it means giving up some yardage in the process.