When punting the punter himself as well as any of his teammates have the option to catch the ball. Though when a punt is caught by the punting team they do not remain in possession of the ball.
For this reason, you will find that every player on the punt team will be wearing football gloves except for the long snapper.
Instead, when a punt is caught by the punting team the ball is downed at the location in which the player caught the ball. This means the opposing team will start their next possession from this location.
Catching a punt from your own team is technically considered illegal touching. The “penalty” for illegal touching is that the receiving team starts with the ball from the location the penalty occurred.
Essentially this isn’t really a penalty at all as teams catch their own punt in order to down the ball at its current position.
To learn more about this topic read our guide to when a player is able to catch a pass from himself.
Why Do Teams Catch Their Own Punt?
You may now be wondering if you do not get possession then why are we trying to catch the punt. The reason behind catching your own punt is field position.
There are two ways in which the punt returning team can move the starting point of their next drive forward. One of those is through returning the punt.
If a punt returner catches the ball he is able to advance it down the field until he is tackled or forced out of bounds. When the punting team catches the ball they are not allowing the punt returner a chance to catch it himself and gain yards.
Additionally, a team may be able to move their starting position forward by allowing a touchback. On any given punt if the ball travels into the end zone the receiving team will start their next drive from the twenty-yard line.
This means that if the punt team is able to catch the ball anywhere within the twenty-yard line they will benefit. This is because if the punt would have otherwise resulted in a touchback their opponents would start at the twenty-yard line.
This leads to some incredible plays in which the punt team catches the ball on the opponent one-yard line. This makes it extremely difficult for the offense to have an effective drive from that position.
What Happens If The Punt Team Drops Their Own Punt?
When trying to recover a punt from your own team players do not have to catch the ball out of the air. Regardless of how a player gains possession of the ball the opposing team will start from the location on the field the player possessed it.
This is why you will see players on the punt team chasing balls that are bouncing. And on some occasions even hitting them out of the air towards their teammate.
There is also one more effect that comes when a punt team player touches the ball. If a player on the punt team touches the ball in any manner the punt returner may no longer fumble the ball.
This means if the punt returner grabs the ball starts his return and then fumbles the opposing team cannot get the ball. This is a little known rule in football and is not understood by most fans.
It is because of this rule that you will see a punt returner run into a group of would-be tacklers in an attempt to pick up the ball. Since the opposing team cannot get the ball via fumble there is no harm in the punt returner making another attempt at the ball before they down it.