ITP Glossary: Punter

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From option route to spin move, commentators rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary was developed to give fans a deeper understanding of the game through clear explanations, as well as image and video examples. Please contact us with any terms or phrases you’d like to know more about.


The punter is a member of the team tasked with drop kicking the ball downfield to gain an advantage on field position on fourth down after an ineffective drive. Punters are usually tall and lanky, creating long levers for them to impart force on the ball. In addition to punting responsibilities, many punters are also holders for field goals and extra points. On a successful punt, punters will also function as a safety, trailing the coverage unit by 15 to 20 yards, though many punters struggle in this role against more athletic returners.

The punter is typically set up 14 yards behind the line of scrimmage in spread punt formation, the core alignment used by most NFL teams. The Green Bay Packers show this formation from their right hash in the still below:


The Chicago Bears show the same formation when punting from the center of the field:


In both scenarios, the punter is located in the exact same position relative to the line of scrimmage, as this distance provides maximum protection while still placing the punter as close to the line as possible to maximize the distance of the punt.

In addition to their punting duties, punters typically function as the holder for field goals and extra points. Below, Brad Wing, then on the Pittsburgh Steelers, receives a snap as a holder on the extra point unit:


Punters also function as safeties on punts, as they trail the play and represent the last line of defense before the end zone. While many punters may struggle with this role due to not possessing the raw athleticism of returners as well as injury concerns, Pat McAfee of the Indianapolis Colts shows that punters can be effective tacklers in open space when necessary:

Watch McAfee bring the wood to Denver Broncos returner Trindon Holliday.

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Chuck Zodda wrote this entryFollow Chuck on Twitter @ITP_ChuckZ.

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