American Football Database
File:Brent Grimes-Hamburg Sea Devils.jpg

Brent Grimes of the Hamburg Sea Devils intercepting a ball

An interception or pick is a move involving a pass, either by foot or hand, being caught by an opposition player, who usually gains possession for his team. It is commonly used in football, including Canadian and American football, as well as rugby league, rugby union, Australian rules football and Gaelic football.

American/Canadian football

In American or Canadian football, an interception occurs when a forward pass is caught by a player of the opposing team. This leads to an immediate change of possession during the play: the defender who caught the ball immediately assumes the role of the offense and attempts to move the ball as far towards the opposing goal as possible. Following the stoppage of play, if the interceptor retained possession of the ball, his team takes over possession at the spot where he was downed.

Interceptions are predominantly made by the secondary or the linebackers, who are usually closest to the quarterback's intended targets, the wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends. Less frequently, a defensive lineman may get an interception from a tipped ball, a near sack, a shovel pass, or a screen pass. As soon as a pass is intercepted, everyone on the defense immediately acts as blockers, helping the person with the interception get as much yardage as possible and perhaps a touchdown; at the same time, everyone on the offense becomes the defense and may attempt to tackle the ball-carrier.

Only the interception of a forward passes is recorded statistically as an interception. The interception of a lateral pass is recorded as a fumble.

Interception returned for touchdown

An interception is commonly referred to as an "INT" or a "pick", a shortened form of "picked off". An interception returned for a touchdown is commonly referred to as a "pick 6" because the resulting touchdown is worth 6 points. ESPN columnist Bill Simmons suggested the abbreviation "TAINT" (Touchdown After INTerception), but this largely failed to catch on, possibly because of other slang meanings of "taint." Simmons himself associated the failure of the term to catch on with the concurrent failure of "Taint" as a nickname for quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.[1]

Notable players


Lester Hayes of the Oakland Raiders was one of the NFL's leaders at interceptions in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was known for covering his chest, shoulders and forearms with a copious amount of the adhesive Stickum to help him hold onto the ball. After the NFL outlawed the use of such foreign substances in 1981, Hayes' success rate at interceptions dropped below average though that could be due to his reputation as a "shutdown cornerback", which discouraged opposing teams from throwing to his side of the field. He continued to use the substance, which he called "pick juice", by having it applied in smaller amounts to his wrists.

Paul Krause holds the record for most career interceptions, with 81, and is tied for third place for most interceptions by an NFL rookie in his first season, with 12. He played his first three years in the NFL from 1964 to 1967 with the Washington Redskins but was traded to the Minnesota Vikings, where he spent most of his career. Krause played until 1979 and appeared in four Super Bowls with the Vikings. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.

Rod Woodson played 16 seasons with Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Oakland, and holds the NFL record for most interceptions returned for touchdowns in an NFL career with 12. Also, he holds the NFL record for most total defensive TD returns in a career with 13. Woodson, who is third on the NFL all-time career interception list with 71, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.

New Orleans Saints safety Darren Sharper, most notable for playing 8 seasons with the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings from 2005–2008, has a career total of 63 interceptions, and has returned 11 of those for touchdowns. Sharper holds the NFL record for interception return yardage in a single season with 376 yards in 2009. He is also tied with Rod Woodson for most total defensive TD returns career with 13. Ty Law, formerly of the New England Patriots, New York Jets, and Kansas City Chiefs, had 52 career interceptions. Champ Bailey, who played for the Washington Redskins and currently plays for the Denver Broncos, had 10 interceptions in 2006 and has a career total of 50. Strong safety Sammy Knight had 42 interceptions in his career.

Ed Reed of the Baltimore Ravens holds the record for the longest interception return, 108 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles on November 23, 2008. Reed also holds the record for the second longest interception return, 106 yards against the Cleveland Browns on November 7, 2004. Reed also has a total of 61 interceptions and holds the record for the most interception return yardage in NFL history (1541).

Brett Favre holds the record for most career interceptions thrown: 336. Favre's first pass in an NFL regular season game resulted in an interception returned for a touchdown. Favre's last pass as a Green Bay Packer was an INT as well thrown to Corey Webster of the New York Giants in the 2007 NFC championship game to lose the game.[2]

Rodney Harrison of the New England Patriots was the first player in NFL history to have 30 interceptions and 30 sacks over the course of his career. He set that historic benchmark on October 21, 2007. The Baltimore Ravens' Ray Lewis was the second to accomplish this feat. He recorded his 30th interception November 21, 2010, intercepting the Carolina Panthers' Brian St. Pierre and returning the ball for a touchdown. Lewis is also the only member of the 40/30 club (at least 40 sacks and at least 30 interceptions).

On November 21, 2010 Ronde Barber became the only player in NFL history with at least 25 sacks (26 total) and 40 interceptions with a 21–0 win over the San Francisco 49ers. His jersey and gloves from the game were subsequently retired to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.

Asante Samuel of the Atlanta Falcons, with 4 postseason INT returns for a TD, is the NFL's all-time leader.

man in green Canadian football uniform runs with a football on a football field

James Johnson's interception for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 95th Grey Cup

James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers set the record for the longest interception return for a touchdown in a Super Bowl in Super Bowl XLIII. The NFL's Defensive Player of the Year Harrison picked off Kurt Warner's pass and returned it a Super Bowl-record 100 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half to give the Pittsburgh Steelers a 17-7 lead over the Arizona Cardinals.

Tom Brady of the New England Patriots holds the record for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception (358). Brady's regular-season streak of pass attempts without an interception ended on September 12, 2011, against the Miami Dolphins. Brady also holds the record for the highest touchdown/interception ratio at 9:1. On December 26, 2010, Brady overtook the previous record of 308 consecutive completed passes without an interception, held by Bernie Kosar of the Cleveland Browns since 1991. Kosar's regular-season streak of pass attempts without an interception ended on November 10, 1991, against the Philadelphia Eagles.


James Johnson was named the Outstanding Player of the 95th Grey Cup on November 25, 2007, after intercepting a record three passes, including one for a 30-yard touchdown. His defensive efforts helped lead the Saskatchewan Roughriders to a 23-19 victory over their CFL Prairie rival Winnipeg Blue Bombers. This was the first time since 1994 that a defensive player was awarded the Grey Cup's top individual title. His most notable interception of the game was when he intercepted Ryan Dinwiddie's final pass and secured Saskatchewan's victory.



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