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Why don't punters just angle the ball out of bounds every time?


heat84

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All these years I've been watching football and this just dawned on me. Why do they actually punt it to somebody if they don't have to? Is there a rule I don't know about? If not then I could be the best punter in the NFL. My average yards per punt might suck but nobody would ever return any of my punts. Let alone for a TD. Is aiming a football when you punt i not as easy as it looks(wind conditions not withstanding)? Maybe that's it.

 

 

Also, when a ball is way up in the air when it goes out of bounds how do the refs figure out where to spot it?

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All these years I've been watching football and this just dawned on me. Why do they actually punt it to somebody if they don't have to? Is there a rule I don't know about? If not then I could be the best punter in the NFL. My average yards per punt might suck but nobody would ever return any of my punts. Let alone for a TD. Is aiming a football when you punt i not as easy as it looks(wind conditions not withstanding)? Maybe that's it.

 

 

Also, when a ball is way up in the air when it goes out of bounds how do the refs figure out where to spot it?

 

 

The median punt return [team average] is 9 yards this season. And a lot of punts are fair caught. Eyeballing the stats on ESPN, the average team has about 20 returns and 5 fair catches. That comes out to roughly 7-7.5 return yards per punt fielded in the field of play.

 

Punts are typically made near the middle of the field. An NFL field is 53 yards wide, so the middle of the field is 26.5 yards from the sideline. Hash marks are ~23.5 yards from the sideline.

 

All other things being equal, the farther the ball travels laterally/horizontally, the less far it travels downfield. Eliminating ~9 return yards, on average, may often prove not worth it, considering the downfield distance you lose trying to kick the ball the 23-27 extra yards out of bounds.

 

Additionally, if you spend all of your power/distance kicking toward the sideline, but it doesn't actually get out of bounds, now you have a short returnable kick, the worst of both worlds.

 

Also, teams sometimes fumble punt returns, lowering the value of a punt return opportunity even further.

 

One mitigating factor is that when kicking out of bounds, you don't need to waste as much power/distance kicking the ball high in the air for hangtime.

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  • 4 weeks later...

The main reason - it's incredibly hard to aim a punt on a ball. Distance is much easier to measure with the power you put into it... but you're talking about a matter of a centimeter that make the difference between yards in direction left and right. It's much easier to have the ball bounce near the inside 3 yards than it is to kick it within the 10 out of bounds.

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