what is roughing the kicker in football

What Is Roughing The Kicker In Football?

Football is a game of rules with kickers highly protected. But at times, you see defensive players running into kickers. What are the rules that protect kickers?

What is roughing the kicker in football? Roughing the kicker is one of those rules that protect punters and placekickers when kicking. Defensive players rough into kickers by running at them and making contact with their legs or preventing them from landing safely on the ground.

Roughing the kicker or punter in football is illegal and can result in a 15-yard penalty from the previous spot.

Continue reading below as you learn more about roughing the kicker in football.

What Is Roughing The Kicker Penalty

Roughing the kicker penalty is given when a defensive player runs into a punt or kicker during the kick play. The penalty usually occurs when a defensive player makes severe contact with the kicker.

A punter or kicker usually has a foot planted into the ground while kicking. A roughing penalty kicker is awarded when a player slides or runs into the planted foot.

A roughing kicker penalty can also occur when both feet of the kicker is on the ground. In such cases, the referee will judge whether the tackle is severe or not. If the roughing is severe, a roughing penalty can still be awarded.

The penalty for roughing the kicker is a 15-yard loss penalty and a first automatic down. If the action is flagrant, the player might be disqualified.

What Is Running The Kicker Penalty

Running the kicker penalty occurs when a defensive player runs and hits the kicker’s swinging leg. When such a play happens, it’s considered as running into a kicker.

american football kicker

It’s a less severe offense than a roughing penalty. The penalty for running the kicker is a 5-yard loss from the previous spot. It’s not an automatic first down, as in the case with a roughing kick.

What Is The Difference Between Running and Roughing the Kicker?

Now that you know what running the kicker and roughing the kicker means, what are the differences?

Running the kicker is when a defender runs and makes contact with a kicker’s foot. This can happen even when the kicker is still in the air. When such happens, it becomes difficult for the kicker to land both feet safely.

Roughing the kicker occurs when a defender makes contact with the kicker’s plant leg while the other leg is still in the air. It’s a pretty dangerous tackle since the planted foot provides stability.

Making contact with the plant leg while the other leg is in the air is extremely dangerous and can lead to a broken bone.

The referee can give an exception only when the contact is less severe, and both legs are on the ground.

Generally, running the kicker is seen as less severe than roughing the kicker. The penalties for the two fouls are different. The penalty for running the kicker is less severe, as shown above.

When Is Roughing The Kicker Not Called?

Not every contact with a kicker is called roughing. While defensive players are not permitted to make contact with a kicker behind the scrimmage line, There are a couple of exceptions.

Below are a few cases where contact can happen and roughing the kicker is not called.

  •  When it’s the kicker causing the contact due to their natural motions
  • When it happens incidentally and after the defensive player has touched the ball in the air first
  • If the kicker picks up or falls on a fumble
  • During a quick kick or rugby kick
  • When the defender is pushed or blocked by the kicker but by a player on the kicker’s team.
ball in focus on the field with football teams

These are the few exceptions when roughing the kicker is not called. Anything else that causes contact with a kicker is called for a roughing.

But you’ll rarely see these exceptions occurring. Overall, players should learn to avoid contact with the kicker during kick plays.

What Is The Penalty Signal for Roughing The Kicker

As for the signal for roughing the kicker, the referee will stand on one leg and then kick their leg out. It’s a straightforward signal that every player understands.

However, rarely will you see officials make the signal. This is because roughing the kicker fouls is very rare in football. In fact, you’ll not find the penalty in the 2020 official penalty handbook.

What is the History of Roughing the Kicker?

The history of roughing the kicker goes back to 1914, when it was first documented. It only took three years down before the league began giving penalties for roughing the kicker.

While the fouls are rare due to the rules, roughing the kicker has played a few influential calls. Keep reading as I show a few examples of roughing the kicker.

Examples of Roughing the Kicker

An example of roughing the kicker occurred in 2003 in a well-known game called the Music City Mulligan. It was an AFC Divisional playoffs between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Nashville Titans.

It was a pretty close game that went overtime, with the Titans winning the coin toss. They marched forward, stopping on the 13-yard line of the Steelers.

Joe Nedney of the Titans kicked a field goal, but the Steelers coach signalled a timeout. Joe missed the kick with DeWayne Washington, the Steelers cornerback, running at him and causing a running kicker penalty.

american football on the grass

Nedney would make a third attempt scoring through the uprights and helping the team win 34-31.

Roughing the Kicker in Football FAQs

Can You Tackle the Punter Before He Kicks the Ball?

You cannot tackle the punter before he kicks the ball. Kickers and punters are considered defenseless and should not be tackled before they kick the ball. However, you can tackle them after a kick and when both feet are on the ground.

Do Kickers Get Hurt in Football?

Kickers get hurt in football and are at higher risk of injuries than other positions. However, due to the rules in place, kickers report injuries at a rate of 24 per year.

Why Do They Call It Icing the Kicker?

They call it icing the kicker since it freezes the kicker from kicking the ball for a while. It is a call where coaches call a timeout before a kicker attempts a field goal. The kicker has more time to think before taking the kick.


Roughing the kicker is a foul where a defensive player makes contact with a kicker while one foot is planted on the ground and another in the air. Roughing the kicker results in a 15-yard penalty loss from the first automatic down.

A similar offense is running the kicker, which is less severe and results in a 5-yard loss. Note that the foul may see you get disqualified in case the action turns out fragrant.

Now that you understand what roughing up the kicker is and how it can cost or benefit you as a placekicker or a defensive player, you can go ahead and utilize it to your advantage depending on the position you are playing.

If you love reading this, we have another article about what is roughing the passer in football.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

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