In gridiron football, roughing the kicker is an action in which a defender, having missed an attempt to block a kick, tackles the kicker or otherwise runs into the kicker in a way that might injure the kicker or his vulnerable extended kicking leg. This protection is also extended to the holder of a place kick. It is a separate penalty from "running into the kicker."[1]

The penalty for such a violation in most leagues is 15 yards and an automatic first down. When such a violation occurs, the team about to surrender possession via a punt will retain its possession as a result. If the violation occurs when a successful field goal is kicked, the yardage is assessed on the ensuing kickoff.[2]

Such protections are also extended to the holder during field goal kicks; the penalty for roughing the holder is identical.


In 1914, the term "roughing the kicker" came into use. Previously, it was known as "running into the fullback after the kick."[3]

In 1917, penalties for roughing the kicker were measured from the spot where the ball was put out of play.[3]


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