What Is An Onside Kick – Football Terminology

An onside kick in football is an intentionally short kickoff done with the intention of the kicking team maintaining possession of the ball. The onside kick has become incredibly difficult to complete in recent years. This is because the rules around this football play have changed.

Why Attempt An Onside Kick?

The most common reason teams onside kick is because they are down multiple scores late in the game. By recovering an onside kick you are able to maintain possession of the ball. This means you will have another opportunity to score.

Though the odds of converting the onside kick are low it is often your only chance. Teams often onside kick after scoring in a game in which they need multiple more scores to win.

Despite the reasoning behind these onside kicks changes being solid, the new rule changes have made onside kicks so difficult that teams are rarely able to convert one and go on to win the game.

Does The Ball Have To Touch The Ground On A Onside Kick?

No, the football does not have to touch the ground on an onside kick. The main reason football spectators ask this question is because they notice kickers bounce the ball off the turf to start their onside kick.

The reason for this is because if the ball does not hit the turf a fair catch can be called. Often times the only way to recover the ball is to make contact with the opposing player as he catches it.

If this player calls a fair catch you are unable to make any contact with him before or after he catches the ball. For this reason, kickers bounce the ball off the turf. This makes for a more likely conversion of the onside kick.

In other words, no the ball doesn’t have to hit the ground on an onside kick. But bouncing it off the ground is the most effective way to recover the ball.

Do Onside Kicks Work?

In the 2017 NFL season, onside kicks were converting at a rate of roughly twenty-one percent. Though in 2018 a new NFL rule changed greatly reduced this number.

The 2018-2019 NFL season had an onside success rate of only six per cent. Roughly half the number of successful onside kicks when compared to the prior year.

This has led the NFL to look into other avenues to find ways to improve the onside kick in the future.

What Are The New Onside Kick Rules?

In 2018 the NFL made sweeping changes to kick-off and kick returns. This was done in order to reduce the number of concussions on these plays.

These rules seemed to center around the kickoff but ended up having huge effects on onside kicks. As we stated earlier the year after these new rules were announced the success rate of onside kicks was cut in half.

Now let’s get into the rules that are causing this issue. The first rule is the even number of players on either side of the kicker. Prior to this rule, you could load one side of the field on a kickoff with more players.

This gave you a better opportunity to recover the ball if you kicked it to one side of the field. The NFL rules states that their must be five players lined up on either side of the kicker.

The other rule that has affected the success rate is ban of the running start. Much like a CFL wide receiver, players were previously able to take a running start to a kickoff so long as they stayed behind the kicker.

The new league rule has made the players start the play at a standstill on the line of scrimmage.

What Is The Alternative?

The main alternative to this kick is a traditional kickoff or a squib kick. These are the sorts of kicks you will typically see to start a game or half. Instead of a short kick with intentions to recover. These kicks travel much further and are meant to give the opposing team bad field position.

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