The term down by contact in football refers to the action of a player falling to the ground after being contacted by an opposing teams player.
In the NCAA college football players are immediately considered down once any part of their body aside from their feet or hands touch the ground.
In other words, college football players don’t have to be downed by contact but rather just have to touch the ground at any point.
In the NFL on the other hand a player is only considered tackled if he travels out of bounds or is downed by contact.
How A Player Can Be Downed By Contact
The most common way to down a player by contact is to tackle him to the ground. If you make physical contact with a player and force him to the ground then this player will be considered downed.
But this isn’t the only way a player can be downed via contact.
When a player is already on the ground a player may simply touch him. This will end the play.
For example, say a player makes a diving catch and remains on the ground. This player is already touching the turf so in order to down him a player must touch him before he gets up.
This tapping of down players ends the play and allows the player to be downed without the defense tackling them.
If no one taps the player he will be able to get back up and advance the ball.
In order to be downed in the NFL you must be tapped while you are down or you must be contacted/tackled in a way that takes you to the ground.
Can Down By Contact Be Reviewed
Yes being down by contact is a play that can be reviewed. Some common occurrences of being down by contact arise on interception returns or fumble plays.
On interceptions, it is not uncommon for the intercepting player to go to the ground as they catch the ball. These players usually get up and return the ball towards the opponent’s endzone.
Oftentimes these players contact the receiver on their way to the ground as they intercept the ball. If there is contact then this player will be ruled down by contact, therefore, negating the return.
Other times when players make a catch they will fumble the ball shortly thereafter. When this occurs reviews are often used to determine if the ball carrier was in fact down by contact before the ball comes out.
These are often crucial calls and involve video replaying determining when exactly the player was downed.
Is A Helmet Down By Contact?
Yes if a player were to contact with his helmet on the turf he will be ruled down by contact so long as another player has contacted him.
The official NFL rule regarding down by contact states that
“when a runner is contacted by an opponent and touches the ground with any part of his body other than his hands or feet”
This means that if you are contacted then yes a helmet will make you down by contact. Though if you have not been contacted by an opposing player you will not be ruled down.