Punter (football)

A punter (P) in American or Canadian football is a special teams player who receives the snapped ball directly from the line of scrimmage and then punts (kicks) the football to the opposing team so as to limit any field position advantage. This generally happens on a fourth down in American football and a third down in Canadian football. Punters may also occasionally take part in fake punts in those same situations, when they throw or run the football instead of punting.

Shane Lechler punts at Falcons at Raiders 11-2-08
Shane Lechler of the Oakland Raiders punts the ball in November 2008.


A punter must be skilled in angling the football and/or kicking it as high as possible (called "hangtime") to maximize his teammates' ability to eliminate a punt returner's forward progress. A "standard" is that for a 42-yard fair-caught or out-of-bounds punt (without added yardage with the ball rolling on the ground), the ideal hang time should be at least a tenth of it in seconds (i.e., 4.2 seconds),[1] but the linear relationship drops off once it hits over 50 yards.[2] A skilled punter attempts to impart a spin to the ball that makes it harder to catch, increasing the odds of a muff that may lead to the punter's team regaining possession.

The most common punting strategy involves receiving the snap (15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, if not shortened to avoid the end line) in an extremely deep shotgun formation, then punting as soon as the snap is received. A less commonly seen strategy is the "rugby-style" kick, in which the punter moves to the left or right, outside the offensive tackle, and then kicks the ball.

Punters play a major role in winning the field position battle.

Because the backup quarterback is usually busy with the rest of the offense and has little time to devote to holding, the punter frequently doubles as the holder on field goal attempts. Likewise, the punter may receive some pass training to facilitate faked field goals and two-point conversion attempts. The punter has typically developed chemistry with the long snapper and is thus accustomed to catching a long-snapped ball.

Punters are also kickers and understand kicking mechanics better, such as knowing how far back to lean the ball as the kicker makes an attempt, and better at judging when a field goal attempt should be aborted. Punters are usually on their own during team practices, allowing them the time to work with the kicker, so the punter and placekicker tend to develop a close rapport. Many punters also double duty as kickoff specialists as most punters have been at one point field goal kickers as well, and some, such as Craig Hentrich, have filled in as worthy backup field goal kickers. Along with kicking, punters can run or throw the ball as well. This strategy is also known as "the fake punt." Another common term is called "the trick play." Teams will often use this key strategy when it is 4th down with maybe 8 or less yards to the first down marker. The punter has the ability to receive the football and run or pass the ball to another teammate. When scrambling the punter is live to tackle. This strategy is often used in a close game.[3]

Punters seldom receive much attention or fan support, in part because their role is greatest when a team's offense is a failure and cannot get within field goal range; they are thus seen as a necessary evil to salvage the incompetence of the offense. Thus, punters tend to receive the most attention when teams are bad, as they are often one of the few players on the team performing up to par. However, punter can also serve to give defenses pressure to pin the opponents deep within their territory, so giving defenses a short field, or to eliminate the threat of a punt return touchdown by return specialists.[4]

Coffin corner

A coffin corner refers to the corner of the playing field just in front of the end zone, usually from the 5-yard line to the goal line. A perfect coffin corner kick is one that goes out of bounds just before either orange pylon located in the front of the end zone. The punter tries to place the ball so that it lands out of bounds or is downed on the field by another member of the kicking team anywhere inside the 5-yard line without touching the goal line, thus forcing a difficult field position for the receiving team on their next scrimmage.

This type of kick can also be attempted in Canadian football. The difference is that if the ball becomes dead in the endzone in Canadian football, a single point is awarded to the kicking team and the conceding team scrimmages from their 35-yard line. In most cases however, the kicking team prefers the advantageous field position, rather than the point.

Career lengths

Certain punters can have exceptionally long careers, compared to other NFL position players (there is a similar tendency with kickers). One reason for this is that their limited time on the field and heavy protection by penalties against defensive players for late hits makes them far less likely to be injured than other positions. Sean Landeta, for instance, played 19 NFL seasons and three USFL seasons for eight different teams. Jeff Feagles played 22 seasons as a punter, on five different teams.

Conversely, placekickers and punters can also have very short careers, mainly because of a lack of opportunity. Because the risk of injury is remote, NFL teams typically only carry one punter on their roster at any given time. Thus, the only opportunity a punter has of breaking into the league is if the incumbent punter leaves the team or is injured. Some NFL teams will carry two punters during the preseason, but the second punter is typically "camp fodder" and almost never makes the opening day roster. Unlike backups at other positions, backup placekickers and punters are not employed by any given team until they are needed; most indoor American football teams, because of smaller rosters and fields along with rules that either ban or discourage punting, do not employ punting specialists.

Career yards

Bob Cameron of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL), in a 23-year career, has the most career punting yards, with 134,301 yards.

Jeff Feagles holds the NFL all-time record for career punting yards with 71,211 yards. He played from 1988-2009 for five different teams in the NFL.

Draft status

Former Oakland Raiders player Ray Guy is the only pure punter to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as well as the only pure punter to be picked in the first round of the NFL Draft. Russell Erxleben was selected as the 11th pick in the first round of the 1979 draft by the New Orleans Saints as a punter but performed other kicking duties as well. Guy is credited with raising the status of punters in the NFL because he proved to be a major ingredient in the Raiders' success during the 1970s by preventing opponents from gaining field position advantage.


Prior to Guy's arrival in Oakland, many teams trained a position player to double as a punter (the placekicker was likewise expected to "double up" at another position), even after the one-platoon system (which effectively required a punter to play offensive and defensive positions on top of their duties) was abolished in the 1940s. The Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II using running back Donny Anderson as their punter. The Packers' regular placekicker, Don Chandler, was an All-Pro punter with the New York Giants but Vince Lombardi brought Chandler in from his old team to serve exclusively as a kicker after Paul Hornung, who set the NFL single-season scoring record with 176 points in 12 games in 1960, was suspended for gambling in 1963 and suffered a sharp decline in accuracy in 1964. Linebacker Paul Maguire served as a punter for the AFL-champion San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills in the 1960s.

The Kansas City Chiefs, who played in Super Bowl I and won Super Bowl IV, bucked the trend at the time by signing Jerrel Wilson as a punting specialist in 1966. Wilson punted for the Chiefs for 13 seasons, and combined with placekicker Jan Stenerud to give the team one of the best kicking combinations in the league.

Backup quarterbacks were commonly used to punt well into the 1970s. Steve Spurrier, who was stuck behind John Brodie at quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, served as the team's primary punter for the first four years of his career. Bob Lee took on the same role for the Minnesota Vikings in the late 1960s and early 1970s, punting for the club in Super Bowl IV.

Danny White played little as a backup quarterback to Roger Staubach with the Dallas Cowboys from 1976 through 1979, but was the team's primary punter from 1975 through 1984, when he gave up the kicking duties to Mike Saxon.

One of the last examples of a punting quarterback was Tom Tupa. A quarterback and punter in college, Tupa actually started his career in the NFL as a quarterback but eventually settled into a role as a full-time punter and emergency quarterback.

Lately, NFL teams have been turning to retired Australian rules football players to punt for them, as punting is a basic skill in that game. Darren Bennett, who played for the San Diego Chargers and Minnesota Vikings in his career, was one of the first successful AFL players to make the jump to the United States, doing so in 1994. Ben Graham, who entered the league with the New York Jets, became the first AFL player to play in a Super Bowl when he played in Super Bowl XLIII with the Arizona Cardinals. Graham is now a free agent. Other former AFL players who made the transition to NFL punters include former NFL punter Mat McBriar and Sav Rocca, formerly of the Washington Redskins. In recent years, an increasing number of Australians have been making the transition to gridiron football at earlier ages, with a significant number now playing for U.S. college teams. The five most recent Ray Guy Awards, presented to the top punter in NCAA Division I football, have gone to Australians. Tom Hornsey of the University of Memphis won in 2013, followed by two punters from the University of UtahTom Hackett (2014 and 2015) and Mitch Wishnowsky (2016). Michael Dickson of the University of Texas won in 2017. All three finalists for the 2016 award were Australians.[5] In the 2018 season, nearly one-fourth of the schools in college football's top level, Division I FBS, including seven in Utah's home of the Pac-12 Conference, have at least one Australian punter on their roster.[6]

Technically, Sam Koch revolutionized punting by developing many variations, due to his flexible hips in an effort to increase net punting average by giving the ball variable trajectories and bounce, making it more difficult for returners to catch and return.[7]

The New England Patriots were noted for almost exclusively employing left-footed punters during the coaching tenure of Bill Belichick, who has claimed the coincidence is unintentional. Left-footed punters have been increasingly used at the NFL level; at the start of the 2001 NFL season, there were 26 right-footed punters, four left-footed ones and one (Chris Hanson) who was dual-footed. By the 2017 NFL season, there were 22 right-footed punters and 10 left-footed ones.[8]


  1. ^ Punt Competition To Play In Under Armour All-America Game on YouTube
  2. ^ 65-yd, 5.4 sec Punt by Australian Punter Joe Gardener - NFL Free Agent Camp on YouTube
  3. ^ http://www.sportingcharts.com/dictionary/nfl/fake-punt.aspx
  4. ^ http://larrybrownsports.com/football/punters-and-kickers-never-get-any-respect/91894
  5. ^ Goon, Kyle (December 8, 2016). "Utah football: Mitch Wishnowsky wins Utah's third straight Ray Guy Award". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
  6. ^ Niesen, Joan (August 16, 2018). "Mitch Wishnowsky and Utah Are Setting the Pace in a New Phase of the Australian Punter Pipeline". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  7. ^ NFL Films (2016-09-26), Boomerangs, Knuckleballs, Hooks: How Sam Koch & the Ravens Changed Punting | NFL Films Presents, retrieved 2016-11-08
  8. ^ Vrentas, Jenny (January 11, 2018). "Punting Takes a Left Turn". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved January 11, 2018.

External links

Positions in American football and Canadian football
Offense (Skill position) Defense Special teams
Linemen Guard, Tackle, Center Linemen Tackle, End Kicking players Placekicker, Punter, Kickoff specialist
Quarterback (Dual-threat, Game manager, System) Linebacker Snapping Long snapper, Holder
Backs Halfback/Tailback (Triple-threat), Fullback, H-back, Wingback Backs Cornerback, Safety, Halfback, Nickelback, Dimeback Returning Punt returner, Kick returner, Jammer, Upman
Receivers Wide receiver (Eligible), Tight end, Slotback, End Tackling Gunner, Upback, Utility
Formations (List)NomenclatureStrategy
Harry Kipke

Harry George Kipke (March 26, 1899 – September 14, 1972) was an American football, basketball, and baseball player and coach. He was the head football coach at Michigan State College in 1928 and at the University of Michigan from 1929 to 1937, compiling a career record of 49–30–5. During his nine-year tenure as head coach at Michigan, Kipke's teams compiled a 46–26–4 record, won four conference titles, and captured two national championships in 1932 and 1933. He is one of only three coaches, along with Fielding H. Yost and Bo Schembechler, in Michigan football history to direct teams to four consecutive conference championships. Kipke was also the head baseball coach at the University of Missouri for one season 1925 while he was an assistant football coach at the school. He was inducted into of the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1958.

Ken Germann

Kenneth George Germann (April 16, 1921 – August 24, 2005) was an American college athlete, football coach, and college athletics administrator. He served as the athletic director at Columbia University from 1968 to 1973. Germann was the commissioner of the Southern Conference from 1974 to 1987. Germann was born in Brooklyn on April 16, 1921.

List of Carolina Panthers players

The Carolina Panthers are a professional American football club based in Charlotte, North Carolina. They play the southern division of the National Football Conference (NFC), one of the two conferences in the National Football League (NFL). On October 26, 1993, NFL owners unanimously selected Carolina as the 29th NFL franchise and the first expansion team since 1976. Carolina Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson, became just the second former player to own an NFL team along with George Halas of the Chicago Bears. The Panthers lost Super Bowl 50 to Denver Broncos after a 15-1 season.

Kicker John Kasay is the longest-tenured player, having participated in 221 games over his 15 seasons with the team. Kasay is one of five players who have played in at least 150 games with the team, and holds team records for most career field goals made and points scored. Offensive tackle Jordan Gross holds the team record for most starts (151); wide receiver Steve Smith ranks second in team starts (161) and games played (182), and holds numerous team records for receiving and kick/punt returns. Sam Mills, who started 48 games with the team from 1995 to 1997, is the only player in the team's Hall of Honor and is also the only player to have had his number (#51) retired by the team. No longtime Panther has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame; the only Hall of Fame member to have played for the team is Reggie White, who spent the 2000 season with the team.

Punt (gridiron football)

In American and Canadian football, a punt is a kick performed by dropping the ball from the hands and then kicking the ball before it hits the ground. The most common use of this tactic is to punt the ball downfield to the opposing team, usually on the final down, with the hope of giving the receiving team a field position that is more advantageous to the kicking team when possession changes. The result of a typical punt, barring any penalties or extraordinary circumstances, is a first down for the receiving team. A punt is not to be confused with a drop kick, a kick after the ball hits the ground, now rare in both American and Canadian football.

The type of punt leads to different motion of the football. Alex Moffat invented the now-common spiral punt, as opposed to end-over-end.

Rhona McLeod

Rhona McLeod (born 11 May 1966) is a Scottish broadcaster.McLeod is a former international athlete and was a member of the Scotland team for seven years, but now works for BBC Scotland.

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