What Is Punting In Football?

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If you’re just getting into the world of American football, you’re going to hear the word ‘punt’ an awful lot. 

Commonly used around the country at every single level of the game, you’ll have seen a player lining up to kick the ball hundreds of times, even if you’re not a huge fan. Indeed, it’s just something so iconic it has become embedded into the American psyche. 

You’re picturing it now. 

It’s just a part of sporting life in this country. 

But what exactly is a punt? 

Sure, you roughly get the idea but have you ever stopped to think about exactly what the point is? What’s hoping to be achieved? 

Luckily, we’ve got the answers. 

What is a punt in football?

Basically, a punt is a kick performed by punters. In order to do it, they will drop the ball from both of their hands and kick the dropping ball before it hits the ground

What you’re looking for here is to pin the opposing team back down towards their end zone in an effort to give your team more of the field to work in. 

Largely, punts take place on the FOURTH DOWN, which effectively means they happen during the offensive team’s final attempts to gain ten yards. 

Which positions can punt in football?

While it sounds pretty obvious that punters are usually the ones you take the kick, the punting position is far from easy. 

Indeed, this is a specialized role within a team, and the player responsible for the kick needs to hit it with pinpoint accuracy. As someone who has seen hopefuls not pay the art of punting the respect it deserves over the long (too long) course of my coaching career, I can tell you with absolute certainty: it’s really not as easy as it looks. 

The best punts are executed with timing and skill, making sure your team can gain as many yards as possible when the going gets tough, and the best punters will be able to handle that kind of pressure. 

When should you punt in football?

Although a punt will take place when one team is on the offense, it really isn’t an offensive play. 

Rather, it sits in the special teams category, as all specialized skills and positions do. 

While the offensive team will take the punt, it is a defensive move to pin the opposing team back and will generally happen on the fourth down. 

What is a punter in American football?

As the name will probably suggest, a punter is a player who takes punts in American football. 

They kick a moving ball (making them different from the kickers who will strike the ball while it’s motionless) and will initially receive it when the long snapper snaps the ball back to them after it is hiked. 

In order to achieve maximum distance, the best punters will connect with the toe end of their foot

What is the punter trying to achieve? 

In the mind of a good punter, they’ll be thinking about exactly how they can gain their team a valuable ten yards on the fourth down

A punter will usually try to place the ball, so it lands either out of bounds or is downed by a teammate towards the opposition’s end zone around the 5-yard line, as long as it doesn’t touch the goal line. 

If that happens, it should force the opposition into a difficult fielding position for the receiving team when it comes to their scrimmage. 

Effectively, the purpose of a punt is to get the ball as close towards the opposition end zone, maximizing the distance they have to travel up-field in response. 

How many points is a punt in football?

A simple question deserves a simple answer. 

Three points. 

If a team is to catch a punt from the opposition fairly, they then have the option of either attempting a field goal or a free kick on the next phase of play. 

Punting rules: American football

Although you’ll generally see most teams punt on the fourth down, there isn’t actually anything specifically in the rules that states it absolutely has to happen there. 

To be honest, teams can punt from anywhere. 

When a team is deeply backed-up in their own zone, they have been known to pun downfield in order to throw their opponents a curveball. Usually, that’s the only time you’ll see the play deployed from the fourth down. 

Generally, the fourth down is considered the best spot from which to punt because the kicking team don’t feel as if they’re capable of converting the first down. 

What’s a good punt in football?

The key thing you’re looking for from a good punt all comes down to distance

If you’re ever in a position to punt, this should be your mantra: How far can I get this ball away from my end zone?

These days, you’re likely to see top players easily punting the pigskin between fifty and sixty yards (in the air); such has been the rapid improvement in sports science and coaching over the years. 

Then, as it drops, it’s not uncommon for a good punter to have forced the opposing team back seventy yards.

When you consider that sort of distance, it’s clear to see why so much work goes into those on the special teams to perform such specific roles. Indeed, you might be having a terrible game but, with a good punter, it can help turn things around with one swing of the cleats. 

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Famous Punters

At the moment, Jack Fox of the Detroit Lions was the top-ranked punter in the NFL in 2020, gaining 1530 yards. 

Historically, the likes of Ray Guy, Ben Graham, and Darren Bennett have all been widely celebrated for their ability from the punt. 

Interestingly, for all of you soccer fans out there, England captain Harry Kane has talked up his desire to one day punt in the NFL. 

What a story that would be!

What are the rules for punting in football?

Luckily, there aren’t many you need to remember. 

As long as the ball is snapped by the long snapper, the punter punts from behind the line of scrimmage, and no opposition players try to block the punt; you’ve got everything you need to try and gain your team some valuable yards at the fourth down. 

Key things to remember for punting in football 

  • Punts cause a change in possession: meaning the receiving team will usually take over the offense unless there’s a takeover. 
  • The main goal is to kick the ball as close to the opposing team’s end zone as possible. 
  • They are only ever done by the special teams unit of any team. 
  • Your aim will be to force your opposition as far back as you can. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a fair catch?

What this means is when the receiver waves their hand in the air prior to catching the ball from the punt. Once this happens, they are allowed to catch the ball, but they must not advance it through the lines. 

Why is it called a fair catch?

That’s done to protect the player catching the ball from onrushing defenses, potentially risking injury. 

Why do people punt from the fourth down?

This is really interesting. 

There’s nothing that says you absolutely have to do that; it’s just that’s when offensive teams will be looking to reset their opposition and will take the risk of giving the playback to them just to gain those yards. 

Can anyone punt the ball?

Not really, no. 

They are usually deployed by the special teams unit of the roster, such as the importance of getting them right. 

Does the ball have to be snapped for a punt?

Yes, the ball still has to be snapped by the long snapper.

How many points is a punt worth?

Punts are worth three points, but they aren’t necessarily done for them. No, creating the space between you and your opposition is ultimately the most important thing. 

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

You’ll have definitely seen punts before. 

They are pretty iconic, but the reasoning behind them makes total and absolute sense. Sometimes, you have to deconstruct these ideas in order to really see the value, considering how constant they are in public and sporting consciousness. 

As you’ll have gathered from this article (we hope), punting is a really good way of relieving pressure. When your backs are against the wall, and things are getting tight, there’s nothing quite like a well-educated punt to force your opposition away. 

On the face of it, it’s a truly animalistic reaction. Get what’s attacking me and trying to steal what I have as far as possible away from me. 

Still, with the game operating at an elite level, we’ve been able to add modern coaching to that, producing some brilliant results. 

Brad Smith
Brad Smith
Brad Smith has been coaching high school Football for 6 years in Florida. He and his wife have 3 beautiful children who he hopes will become the first Jaguars to win a Superbowl. Other than Football, Brad loves American litterature, parenting, gardening, and home remodeling.