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What is a Safety in NFL? What happens after it?

While it doesn't happen often, a safety can be one of the more exciting plays to see in the NFL.

Join as we take you throuhgh one of the more rare plays in the NFL, the safety. How does it occur, how does one avoid it and more over what happens after?
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

American football can often be confusing for the casual viewer with its wide array of complex rules and protocols. With that in mind we help you through one of the more debated ones today, the safety.

What is a safety in the NFL?

Simply put the safety in American Football is a way in which the defense or special teams can score points. It should not be confused with safety position which forms a part of the defensive team. A safety occurs when the offense commits a foul in their own end zone, fumbles the ball out of their end zone, or are tackled in their own end zone. When this happens the opponent is rewarded 2 points.

What does the NFL say about safeties?

According to the league's rules a safety occurs, ” if the offense commits a foul in its own end zone or; when an impetus by a team sends the ball behind its own goal line, and the ball is dead in the end zone in its possession, or the ball is out of bounds behind the goal line.” In practice a safety has typically occurred in American football when players have been tackled in their own end zone, normally due to the offensive line making a mistake within their blocking. While rare safeties can happen if the offense isn’t precise in their play calling.

How To Score A Safety?

While there is often debate as to whether trying to play out of one's own end zone is a better option than punting, most coaches will opt for the punt in an effort to push the team deeply back into their own territory. This of course is beneficial because if they can down the punt inside of the opponent’s 5-yard line, there is a high probability they can push for a safety.

To be clear, there are two ways in which a safety can be scored. The first is tackle made on a player in his own end zone or alternatively to push said player out of the end zone. In order to avoid a safety, the offensive team must get the entire ball out of the end zone, which is to say more than half the football must cross the line. For perspective, this is often the reason why offensive teams will often opt to go for a long pass in the hopes of getting out of the end zone, rather than risking a safety.

The second category of safety occurs when the ball is fumbled out of the end zone. This has commonly been observed with special teams. A prime example occurs when teams are pinned into their own end zone and half to punt. With shortened field space for a long snap special teams can complicate life for the kicker. Should the punt be blocked or kicker shut down, it will be ruled a safety.

What happens after a safety?

Once a safety is awarded and the two points registered, the team will also be given possession which makes a safety even more detrimental to the offense as they are now forced to hand over two points as well as give up possession through a kick or punt to their opponents. Interestingly, teams can choose between the two, though it does little in the way of easing the blow received from the error.

For more from the NFL

Why Teams Punt After A Safety?

Teams more often than not choose to punt rather than kick for the simple reason that it's easier to cover. Punting the ball high in the air gives the kicking team more time to cover ground in the hopes than they can successfully beat back a charge or even recover the ball themselves. While kicks do occur, one will often see teams trying to employ the same strategy of getting the ball as high into the air as possible, thereby giving themselves more time to weigh their options as they push forward.

If you found this helpful then check back with us next time as we explain What a Touchback is!


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