American Football Rules - Free Kick Downs - Kickoffs - Receiving A Kickoff

Receiving A Kickoff

A member of the receiving team gaining possession of the ball on a kickoff may attempt to advance it as far as he can toward the kicking team's goal line before being downed. Once the ball carrier is downed, the play is whistled dead and the ball is placed by the officials at the point where the play ended; this spot then becomes the line of scrimmage for the ensuing play. A kick that travels through or goes out of bounds within the end zone without being touched, or is caught by the receiving team in the end zone but not advanced out of it, results in a touchback; the ball is then placed at the receiving team's 20-yard line, which becomes the line of scrimmage.

A kickoff that goes out of bounds anywhere other than the end zone before being touched by the receiving team is an illegal kick: the receiving team has the option of having the ball re-kicked from five yards closer to the kicking team's goal line, or they may choose to take possession of the ball at the point where it went out of bounds or 30 yards from the point of the kick (25 yards in high school), whichever is more advantageous.

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