HomeFootballA Guide to NFL Onside Kick Rules!

A Guide to NFL Onside Kick Rules!

NFL Onside kick rules are used to gain control of the ball. NFL teams commonly line up for onside kicks when down by 14 points or fewer. Both teams try an onside kick to reclaim the ball for their assault. Continue reading this article from Sportda to have a better understanding of the NFL onside kick rules and how they influence the overall competition. Let’s not waste any time and go straight into the specifics!

When the game is on the line and the kicking team badly wants the ball in the hands of its offense, they will often utilize an onside kick. Although an onside kick may be used at any moment to generate a huge play, these kicks are typically used when the game is on the line.

The squad reaps substantial benefits from onside kicks, but they also expose themselves to a high degree of danger when they are carried out. Since 2022, the National Football League has modified the rules governing the onside kick in an effort to reduce the risks that are inherently associated with the sport of football. 

The decline in the number of onside kicks that need a recovery also coincides with the fall in the number of head injuries sustained. Players on the kicking squad need to be able to think creatively in order to execute surprise onside kick techniques.

The onside kick is often considered to be one of the most thrilling plays in all of football. Even though there is just a remote possibility of it being salvaged, the players, coaches, and supporters all get psyched up for the possibility of an onside kick.

NFL teams will often set up for onside kicks when they are down by 14 points or less in a game they are playing. Both teams will get in position to attempt an onside kick in the hopes of regaining possession of the ball for their attack. If the offensive team has possession of the ball, there is a chance for the team to score points.

Rules Of The Onside Kick

There is no set schedule for when an onside kick could occur. Both at the beginning and the middle of the game, teams have the option of kicking the ball onside. The reason why teams don’t do this is because it requires them to give up valuable field positions in exchange for simply kicking the ball 10 yards.

Each team will have six players in their starting formation for an onside kick, while the opposing side will have just four players. Before any player may kick the ball, they must all remain onside, or behind the ball. The team that kicked the ball is not allowed to lawfully retrieve it until it has traveled a distance of at least 10 yards after it has been kicked.

If it passes nine yards before being recovered by the team who kicked it, then it is deemed to have been unlawfully touched, and the team that kicked it will get a penalty for their action.

There is often just one opportunity for the kicking side to recover this kick. If their team is behind and they need to recover possession of the ball, the coaches will choose to perform an onside kick.

When time is running out or the team does not have any timeouts left, the coaches will often make the decision to perform an onside kick in order to return the ball back to their offense.

After a kick, the ball may be recovered by the team that was on the receiving end of the play. This indicates that they are able to retrieve it even if it travels five or even ten yards. When it comes to recovering an onside kick, there are no time constraints.

If the football is kicked and then touches a member of the receiving team at any time after being kicked, the team that kicked it has the option of recovering it before or after 10 yards have been gained.

NFL Onside Kick Rules

What are the NFL onside kick rules?

The word “onside kick” comes from the sport of American football and refers to a kick in which the team doing the kicking deliberately moves the ball during the kickoff such that it is received by the team doing the receiving. In most cases, they will kick the ball down toward the ground in order to get it to bounce.

How does an onside kick work? The receiving team will have a difficult time maintaining possession of the ball if a surprise onside kick is executed, which will allow the kicking team to reclaim possession of the ball. If they are successful, the kicking side will be able to provide their attacking squad with more time to keep control of the ball.

This edge is vital, particularly in the last minutes of the game, when each and every chance count and every advantage counts for a lot.

If the side that is receiving the ball is successful in recovering it, then it will be awarded an instant first down from the area where the ball was recovered (also known as the dead-ball site). To guarantee that they obtain the first penalty in time to tee off, the side that is receiving the ball has to have complete possession of the ball.

If the team that is receiving the ball fumbles the ball and it ends up in front of the team that is defending, then the team that is defending gets the ball and the first down.

It is forbidden for the side that is kicking the ball to take any action to stop the defender from catching the ball in the first 10 yards after the ball has been kicked. Both teams will suffer a loss of 10 yards if they block with their hands or use their hands in any other way. If the team that is receiving the throw touches the ball inside the first 10 yards after it has been passed, the team that kicked it may recover it.

What Are The New Onside Kick Rule Changes?

If you look at the past NFL onside kick rules, it’s simple to see that the teams who are more physically capable of playing the game tend to come out on top. By executing onside kicks, they have the ability to entirely control who has possession of the ball on the field.

The percentage of successful surprise onside kicks reached as high as sixty percent during the years 2001 and 2010. This is a different scenario when looking at the amount of projected onside kicks, which hovers around just 20%.

Because of this dynamic, certain football matches may get highly violent and spiteful. The National Football League made the decision in 2018 to implement new safety measures for players to use while attempting onside kicks.

These adjustments are going to affect both the team that is kicking and the team that is receiving. In this part, we will go further into the NFL’s recent rule change regarding the onside kick.

NFL Onside Kick Rule Change for Kicking Team (Team A)

How onside kicks do works? The new regulation for the onside kick in football prohibits the team that will be kicking from positioning players on one side of the line prior to the kickoff. They will line up with five men on each side of the kicker to form their lineup. At least two players will have to stand outside the yard-line number, two players between the inbound lines and the yard-line number.

No matter where he is, the person who is now holding the free-kick counts is counted as one of the five players on the list.

When a player is positioned within one yard from the penalty line, he is required to have at least one foot (it does not matter whose foot it is) contact that line. This requirement applies regardless of which foot it is. The kicking team has the responsibility of ensuring that all of their players are standing inside the inbound lines and behind the ball. The holder of the placekick and the kicker, provided that the kicking foot does not cross the line, are two of the rare exceptions.

It is not possible for the kicking team to begin chasing after the ball until the kicker has completed the kick. This indicates that there won’t be a running start. For kickoffs, they are required to line up behind a restraining line at the 35-yard line, and for safety kicks, they are required to line up at the 20-yard line.

These modifications are a reflection of the efforts made by the NFL to ensure the safety of football players. In the past, the typical tactic used by the team that would be kicking the ball was to load one side of the ball and then attempt to dismantle the opposing team’s formation by kicking the ball directly at it. As a direct consequence of this, the two teams are involved in major accidents, which often result in unintended injuries.

NFL Onside Kick Rule Change for Receiving Team (Team B)

These modifications are applicable to both the kicking teams and the receiving teams as well. The line that prevents the kicking team from scoring will often be 10 yards in front of the line that the receiving team uses.

The new kickoff regulations implemented by the NFL also recalculate the number of players that must be spread apart by the receiving team whenever they are obligated to do so throughout the game. Between their 40-yard line and their 45-yard line, the side that is receiving the ball is required to position at least eight men in a setup zone that is 15 yards long.

The receiving team is required to add around three players in the area surrounding the touchdown. The receiving team will be shielded from typical kicks thanks to this structure, and the likelihood of players colliding with one another will be cut significantly.

In accordance with the new NFL regulations, the receiving team is not permitted to execute wedge blocks while a defensive player has possession of the ball. Even though this block suspension strategy is often reserved for only three receivers who are aiming for the end zone, it does have an impact on the regular onside kickers.

The new regulations for onside kicks, as well as precise instructions on adjustments to kick-offs, may be found in the official rule book of the NFL, which you should consult for additional information.

What Is The Difference Between An Onside Kick & Regular Kick?

The distance of an onside kick compared to a standard kick is what differentiates the two types of kicks. The ball often travels 10 yards after an onside kick, giving the team who kicked it an opportunity to retrieve the football.

Normal kicks go farther and require the receiving team to return the football to the kicking team. The regular kicks are very beneficial for field position, as they push the other team’s attack to drive farther down the field on offense.

The team that kicks the ball will lose field position, but the receiving team will have a chance to retrieve the ball if it was an onside kick. This is the primary distinction between the two types of kicks.

What Is Considered An Onside Kick?

An onside kick is defined as any kick that travels slightly beyond 10 yards. It is possible for teams to set up for an onside kick without attempting to conceal anything.

On the other hand, teams could attempt something that is known as a surprise onside kick.

The kickoff teams will surprise the opposing team by lining up with five men on either side of the football in order to attempt an onside kick. The kicker will give the impression that he is kicking the ball deep but will really kick it short in the hope of recovering it.

It is the goal of the kicking team to put the kickoff return team to sleep so that they can retrieve the football.

Can You Return An Onside Kick?

Any kick that is made by the other side is fair game for the receiving team to return. The receiving team has the opportunity to make a return attempt as soon as the ball is kicked away from the kicker.

On the other hand, the team that is kicking off cannot return an onside kick. As soon as they retrieve the football, they immediately drop to the spot where they obtained it.

The only way for them to score a touchdown is for the receiving team to have possession of the ball first, then fumble it, and then for the kicking team to pick it up and attempt to run with it.

In the sport of football, an onside kick is a last-ditch effort by the offensive team to recover possession of the ball and either score or draw the game even.

Kickers will often attempt to hit the receiving team with a low line drive in the hopes that the ball will either bounce off of them or that they would mishandle the football. After the ball has been in play for ten yards, the team that kicked the ball is allowed to attempt to recover the onside kick.

NFL Onside Kick Rules

Proposal for the New Onside Kick Rule Change

The onside kick is a crucial component in enhancing a team’s chances of keeping control of the ball, particularly in the latter stages of a game, such as the fourth quarter. As a result, the teams are continuously seeking new approaches to building suggestions that would provide the kicking team with a greater number of benefits.

The Denver Broncos made a suggestion in the spring of 2019 to allow the team that scored a touchdown to choose whether or not to run a fourth-and-15 play from their own 35-yard line. Because of this transition, the team is able to keep control of the ball.

After the NFL turned down the Broncos’ view in 2020, the Eagles offered a proposal that was quite similar to that. Instead of trying an inside kick, the team who committed the infraction will be forced to switch play fourth-and-15 from their 25-yard line. If the offensive is successful in their attempt, it will get to keep possession of the ball. In such a case, the side that is defending will get the ball at the point when it is dead.

The National Football League did not hold a vote on any of these propositions. Despite this, they went ahead and enacted a trial rule that would aid boost the team’s chances of success when it comes to regaining possession of the ball.

According to the new regulation, the “setup zone” may only include a maximum of nine players from the receiving side at any one time. In past seasons, that number often ranged from ten to eleven players. The side that is kicking has a greater chance of recovering the ball since there are fewer individuals receiving the ball.

Lining Up for an Onside Kick

When ready for an onside kick, the kicking team will line up in a manner that is relatively similar to the manner in which they would line up for a standard deep kickoff.

At the line of scrimmage, ten men will line up, and the kicker will position him slightly behind them in order to set up.

In the past, teams would strive to gain an advantage over the other team by overloading one side of the field with a large number of players in an effort to get a competitive edge.

They might gain a statistical man-to-man advantage over the team that is receiving the kick by lining up more men on one side of the kicker than they would on the other.

However, in recent years there have been changes made to the regulations governing onside kicks, which currently prohibit this from occurring.

One of the reasons was that concentrating so many players on a single side of the kicker increased the likelihood that some of the players would get an injury.

There are now explicit regulations regarding where players may line up, and they are as follows:

  • First, there must be a perfect balance inside the formation, which can only be achieved by having at least five members of the kicking team line up on each side of the kicker.
  • The second requirement is that at least two players from each team must align themselves between the numbers that are painted on the field and the hash marks. Once again, this prohibits the team from stacking all five players adjacent to each other on one side of the field.
  • Third… Before the kicker makes contact with the ball, all of the players on the team that is kicking have to line up at the line of scrimmage and they are not allowed to start running until the kicker has done so.
  • In the past, when kicking teams wanted to obtain a running start, they would line up a few men off the line of scrimmage so that they could have a head start…
  • This is not permitted anymore since it has the potential to cause serious harm to someone.

The Receiving Team

There are other rules regarding the onside kick that dictate how the team that is receiving the kick must line up its players.

  • At least eight players from the receiving team are required to line up in a 15-yard zone that is defined between the 45-yard line of the kicking team and the receiving team’s 40-yard line. This zone is considered part of the receiving team’s end zone.
  • The most recent modification to the rules was made in order to cut down on the number of unexpected onside kicks.
  • This is due to the fact that a large number of players on the receiving team will now be required to line up in a single location that is quite near to the region that is designated as the neutral zone.
  • Once again, this assists in lowering the risk of injuries occurring during onside kicks.
  • When an unexpected onside kick is executed, the players on the receiving team are forced to make a sharp turn in the direction of the ball, while the players on the kicking team rush full speed forward at them.


What are the rules for an onside kick in the NFL?

Onside kicks are permissible if they go at least 10 yards and provide the kicking team a chance to retrieve the ball. Onside kicks include high-bounce, drive, and drag kicks.

What is the NFL’s new rule to replace onside kicks?

The league disclosed the teams’ proposed 2023 modifications. The Philadelphia Eagles suggested letting the kicking team convert a 4th-and-20 from its own 20-yard line instead of an onside kick after a touchdown.

Were there any successful onside kick attempts in the Playoffs or Super Bowl?

Recent Super Bowl onside kicks are the most renowned. The Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl XXX victory comes first. Bill Cowher called this trick play with 11:48 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Steelers losing 27-17.


In crucial circumstances, using the strategy of an onside kick may assist the team in taking the lead or turning the game around. One of its major drawbacks is that it leads to a higher incidence of player injuries and does not ensure their safety. We still need to adjust to the new circumstances, regardless of how you feel about the shift. The victorious strategy consisted of sneaking up on a defender that was resting and giving them a kick out of the blue. NFL Onside Kick Rules are discussed in details in the article; an onside kick is a pleasant moment for spectators and an exciting play for the players.

Abu Bakar
Abu Bakar
Abubakar is a writer and digital marketing expert. Who has founded multiple blogs and successful businesses in the fields of digital marketing, software development. A full-service digital media agency that partners with clients to boost their business outcomes.


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