special teams football

Special Teams Football: What Does Special Teams Do?

When people talk about football teams, there are two units— an offense team and a defense team. Special teams football is an integral part of the team that is often overlooked but plays a significant role.

Special teams include kickers, kickoff returners, punters and kickoff receivers, and any player involved in the kick coverage team. These members can quickly change the game and make the difference between a loss and a win.

A strong special team is in charge of preserving a better field position.  They keep offensive and defensive players in the lineup for a great play by maintaining proper positions on the field. 

So what are special teams? Why are they important? How can a special team shift the momentum? Let us have a look.

What Is Special Teams in Football?

Special teams play during power plays and are responsible for kicks— whether your team is defending, returning, or attempting a hit. Every detail counts.

Altogether, special teams contribute 20% of the game in most games, but their play affects the success rate. In National Football League, special teams account for nearly 35% of points scored in a season. In the offense and defense segment, the special teams play a much bigger role in actual point production than defenses.

Every time the squad begins a drive, special teams are their only source of support.

There are four primary units of players on the special team.

  • Kickoffs
  • Punts
  • Punt and kickoff return unit
  • Field goal and extra point attempts

What Do Special Teams Do in Football?

Ever wondered what special teams do in football? It is no secret that fans do not know much about special teams.

In professional leagues and collegiate teams, special team units consist of prominent players who work as offensive and defensive units. Yet, in youth football teams— the same offense and defense players play the role of special teams.

The team hires dedicated coaches and specialist players as team members after hours of meetings and sessions over a week of planning so that it gets the best when offense and defense players are absent from the field.

Let us see the in-depth roles of special teams and why they are crucial to the game.

Who Plays on Special Teams in Football?

The special teams key players have the following defining positions.

american football player kicks the ball high into the air
  • Kickers: Also known as placekickers, they are responsible for kickoffs, goals, and scoring extra points. They kick the ball to score for the team and can win or lose points in the game. This player is not very active in it.
  • Holder: These players assist the kickers. They keep the ball down there for kickers to use. If the kicker fumbles with the ball, they risk missing the ball or the goal field.
  • Punters: They are in charge of kicking the ball from one end of the field to the other end. The event occurs when the offensive team tries to pass the ball to the opposition.
  • Punt Protectors: They are the additional blocks positioned behind the line of scrimmage to assist punters. It is the last line of defense between the punter and the advancing gunners.
  • Returners: These are the players who catch the ball after kickoff. After catching the ball, they can either signal for a fair catch or run down to get points for the team.
  • Gunners: Running down the field to meet the returner head-on. They are positioned on the sidelines and are quick runners.
  • Jammers: They are the main opposition of gunners. They have to prevent the gunners from getting a head start on the punt returner by blocking them at the line of scrimmage.
  • Blockers: A blocker hinders the defender’s path or ball carrier, depending on the game style. By making contact, players prevent defensive players from advancing with the ball.
  • Snapper: The player who snaps the ball to the holder to score extra points— is the long snapper. He must be an expert in handling the ball as extreme accuracy and precision is needed as kickers and punters stand far from each other in the fields.

Four Main Areas of Special Teams in Football

There are four fundamentals of special teams of football. All these are related to kicking plays but with differences. The individual special teams unit either defends against the play or returns the ball according to the offensive or defensive counterparts.


Kickoffs are the beginning of every football game.

The game initiates when the kicking team kicks the ball to the receiving team. The receiving team then returns the ball by attempting to advance it to the end zone of the kicking team, then the player is handled by the kicking team, scores, or goes out of bounds.

american football kicker in red uniform

A kickoff occurs when a team scores a point. It is a way to reset the field, and the second half— decides the winner.

A kicker and ten players make up the kicking team. Abiding game rules, the kicker will place the ball at the tee on his field area, around the 35-yard line.

The kicker starts with 15 yards behind the ball for good momentum so that the ball hits the desired person. Here, the idea is to get the ball as far as it gets the touchdown.

The other members of the kicking team line up to the sidelines to cover the field—ten yards behind to run when the ball hits. A line of scrimmage should not be crossed until the ball is kicked.

For the receiving team, three distant spots are assigned. Sometimes offensive linemen line up 10 yards off the ball. Five guys are standing on either side of the hash mark, with one in the center of the area. They block the players and try to surprise them with an onside kick.

Four players from the opposite group will line up 20 yards behind the first line. They are agile players whose duty is to obstruct players.

While kicking the ball, their first step will be back and look up to block the ball carriers. The final player will line up deep down the field depending upon how good kickers are they.

Then there are fast players— wide receivers and runners. One catches the ball and the other acts as a blocker to the ball carrier.


A punt is a kick enacted by dropping the ball on the ground and then kicking the ball before it touches the field. A common way is to punt the ball downfield to the opposing team hoping the receiving team gets the field position that is a plus for the kicking team when possession changes.

A punt can happen anywhere on the field, although it often occurs around the 50-yard line direction of the offensive team’s territory. It looks more like a regular play than a kickoff when players line up.

There are seven players for punting positioned at the line of scrimmage. The center and guards tackle the ball on each side, two yards apart.

The two players stretch about three yards to cover the line of scrimmage. Instead of the traditional three-point stance, these players keep their hands on their hips and go for two-points long.

The punter stands fifteen yards behind the long snapper. The long snapper snaps the ball to the punter, who punts the ball. He aims to kick the ball as far as possible or angle towards the one sideline.

player punts the football

The punt return team lines up on the opposite side. One lineman stands opposite the long snapper. Then, three snappers line up against the long snapper for tackles. The returner tries to get the ball.

If the team wants to play defensive, they pick up the opponent and block them. Some players rush to the line of scrimmage to block the punter if the punt is blocked. The returner waits for the punt before returning or grabs the ball before it touches the ground.

Field Goal Attempts

A field goal is a specific team of people who comes forward when the offensive team attempts a goal. It is a condensed form of the game that is tough than punt or kickoff. It involves the kicker and a holder, who serves as a punter. They may be replaced in the center as a long snapper in the field goal unit.

This unit is the scorer of the game. The placekickers are the highest scoring members of any football team.

Extra Point Attempts

Many players in the field goal unit aim for extra points after a touchdown. Some teams may go for two-point conversion to score where the quarterback lines up for the extra-point scoring squad.

While the defensive teams line up against the field goal and have extra linebackers for saving points. The linebackers can swat down balls during smash as they are taller.

When Do Special Teams Appear?

Special teams come into action when there is a call for punt, kickoffs, free kicks, field goals, and extra point attempts. Most of the team players are second and third-string positioned players.

These teams are special because they serve as defensive and offensive units and act sporadically during the play. There are kick return teams, punt return teams, field goal teams, and block teams.

These aspects of the game are distinct from general offensive and defensive play. It possesses a dramatic impact on the overall game.

Why Special Teams is Important?

Special teams are a core part of the game and viewers tend to underestimate their significance. But as the game aces, individuals bear a substantial load. For instance, the kick returner’s responsibility is to advance the ball, so the offensive team starts driving.

football player about to kick the ball on a tee

Likewise, the opposing team’s defense seeks to prevent the offense from scoring on kickoff plays. Blockers sweep the field and hold the additional points; this can completely alter the course of the game.

Special Teams Football FAQ

Why Do They Call It Special Team?

Special teams play a prominent part in the game. These players have a significant effect on the outcome of the game. There is an adage that while special teams may not win the game, they may lose it.

What Makes a Good Special Teams Player?

Players must be technical, robust, and skilled enough to handle kickoffs to excel in special teams. These players should know how to accelerate or decelerate, use hands, run through close contacts, create perfect angles, play with a strong mind, and tackle swiftly.

How Much Do Special Teams Players Make?

Special team players— kickers, punters, long snappers, gunners, and other participants, receive less money until the third quarter of the game. No special team member receives more than $5 million a year. You can also check How Much Do Soccer Players Make?


Special teams are damn special!

Special teams may disadvantage the other team with an excellent punt. Kickers can score three points with a successful field goal.

A special team cannot win the game but may lose it on defense and offense. The kicker is perhaps the team’s highest scorer, which has a massive impact on the gameplay. Encouraging youth teams to practice will improve their gameplay. It is pivotal to special teams in football.

They are the third pillar of a successful force.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *