What Are NFL Special Teams?

Most people know that NFL teams have offense and defense, but there is a third unit that is often overlooked – special teams. Special teams are responsible for kicking, punting, and returning kicks and punts. They also sometimes take the field on special situations like onside kicks. So what are NFL special teams and what do they do? Read on to find out!

Definition of Special Teams

Special teams are units in American football that handle kicking and punting duties. They are also sometimes referred to as the “third phase” of the game, after offense and defense. Special teams play during kicking situations, such as kickoffs, punts, field goals, and extra points. They are also tasked with covering kicks and containing return men on special teams plays.

The special teams unit is usually made up of reserve players who see limited action on offense or defense. However, some starting players may also see time on special teams. This is often the case with quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers, who use their speed and athleticism to make an impact on special teams plays.

Kickers and punters are usually the only players on the field for special teams plays. However, they are often joined by long snappers, gunners, upbacks, and other players in specific roles.

Purpose of Special Teams

The National Football League (NFL) is a professional American football league. It is made up of 32 teams who each play 16 games during the regular season. NFL teams are also divided into two conferences, the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC).

Field goals

Field goals are worth three points and are often used to score late in the game when one team is within range of the end zone but not close enough for a touchdown. A team may also elect to go for a field goal if it is trailing late in the game and needs a quick score to make up ground.

The holder (usually the team’s backup quarterback) places the ball on the ground in front of him, with the point of the ball facing the uprights. The kicker (or “placekicker”) starts several yards behind him and approaches the ball at a run. As he reaches the ball, he strikes it with his kicking leg just below his knee, sending it sailing through the air and toward the goal posts.

The distance from where the ball is spotted to the end zone determines how difficult it is for the kicker to make a field goal. If he kicks it from too far away, there is a risk that he will not make it; if he kicks it from too close, there is a risk that he will kick it too high and allow defenders to block it or knock it down before it goes over the crossbar.

Punt returns

In American football, punt returners are the players on special teams who catch the ball after it is punted by the opposing team. Punt returners are typically among the fastest players on their team, often receivers or defensive backs. They may call for a fair catch, which grants them immunity from tackles by the kicking team’s coverage players; if they do not fair catch the ball, they may be tackled and downed.

Punt returners must be able to judge the incoming punt accurately to determine whether to fair catch it or let it bounce. They must also have the speed and agility to evade tacklers and run upfield with the ball once they have caught it. Good punt returners are a valuable asset to their teams because they give their offense good field position and sometimes score touchdowns.

Kickoff returns

A kickoff return is a play in gridiron football where the purpose is primarily on the returner, who attempts to run the ball back as far as possible towards their own end zone.Once the returner receives the ball, he may attempt to advance it upfield by either running or passing it to another teammate; if no further advance is made, the play is dead and the return ends.

The vast majority of successful returns are made by running the ball; a small number are made by lateral passes to teammates (a “lateral”). If a lateral pass is attempted and caught by an opposing player, it usually means that no significant advance will be gained and may even result in a loss of yards depending on how far downfield the opposing player was when he caught it.

In most leagues, a successful touchdown return is worth six points; in some professional leagues and high school games, however, it may be worth seven points or even more. A touchdown return can also be referred to as a “kickoff return for a touchdown”, which is usually abbreviated as “KOR-TD” or simply “KORTD”.

Field position

In football, the primary purpose of the special teams is to change the field position. When one team has the football, its objective is usually to score points or at least maintain control of the ball for a long enough period of time to score points. The other team’s objective is to stop them from doing so — either by tackling the ball carrier on defense or by forcing a turnover on offense.

Special teams come into play when the ball changes hands — either on a turnover (including downs), after a scoring drive, or to begin each half. The most common way for the ball to change hands is via a punt, which is why punters and punt returners are among the most important players on special teams. A blocked punt can be returned for a touchdown, and a long punt can help pin an opponent deep in its own territory.

Field goals and extra points are also kicking plays that usually involve special teams. The holder (usually the backup quarterback) and kicker need to have good chemistry, and the kicking unit needs to be able to protect the holder from oncoming defenders.

Finally, kickoff and kick return plays are typically special teams plays. The objective of a kickoff is simple: boot the ball as far downfield as possible so that the opposing team will have a long way to go to score. The objective of the kick returner is usually just to catch the ball and get as many yards as possible, but in some cases, he may try to run it all the way back for a touchdown.

Types of Special Teams

There are three types of teams in the National Football League: the offense, the defense, and the special teams. The special teams are responsible for all plays that happen outside of normal offensive and defensive situations. This includes plays like punts, field goals, and kickoffs.

Punt team

A punt team is the group of players on a football team that is responsible for punting the ball to the opposing team. The punt team typically consists of the punter, the long snapper, and a group of blockers.

The punter is the player who actually kicks the ball. The long snapper is the player who snapping the ball to the punter. The blockers are responsible for protecting the punter and giving him time to kick the ball.

Punt teams are usually units within special teams, which are groups of players that specialize in certain tasks on the football field. Special teams typically play a less significant role than offense or defense, but they can still be important in certain situations.

Kickoff team

The kickoff team is the team that begins the game and the other team’s first possession of each half, and also kicks off after scores. The kickoff team may also be referred to as the “kickoff coverage team”. The primary responsibility of the kickoff team is to stop the other team’s return specialist from having a long return. Secondary responsibilities include forcing a fair catch, downing/covering the kick inside the 20-yard line, and not committing a foul during the return.

When a team scores, its kicking teams seek to downed or cover the ensuing kick inside the 20-yard line. Kickoffs are typically placed at either side of midfield to give both teams an opportunity to score on their first offensive possessions. However, if good field position or a large lead late in a game means that one team is almost certain not to score again, then that team may elect to squib or onside kick rather than risk a long kickoff return by their opponents.

Field goal/extra point team

The field goal/extra point team is responsible for scoring points when the offense cannot get into the end zone. This team includes the kicker, who attempts field goals and extra points, and the holders, who hold the ball for the kicker during these plays. The long snapper is also part of this team; he snaps the ball to the holder on field goal and extra point attempts.

Players on Special Teams

Special teams are groups of players in the National Football League (NFL) who are on the field during kicking plays. The term “special teams” refers to the fact that these players typically do not receive the same amount of playing time or attention as the starting offense and defense. These players usually play on a part-time basis and are not considered to be full-time starters.


In American football, the punter (punt) is a specialized player who receives direct snaps from the center, and then punts (kicks) the football to the opposing team so as to limit any field position advantage. This generally happens on fourth down in all three phases of the game. Punters can be a team’s leading scorer, especially in games where points are at a premium such as in rain or snow conditions.

Punters are usually among the oldest and most experienced players on their team. They are usually among the tallest players as well, since height gives them an advantage in handling high spirals from deep in their own end zone.

Most punters also serve as backup quarterbacks or holders on placekicks, and some also play as wide receivers or defensive backs on short yardage situations.


Kickers are usually the smallest and lightest players on an NFL team. They need a strong leg to kick field goals and extra points. A lot of times, teams will have a punter and a placekicker, meaning that one player punts the ball on fourth down, and the other player kicks field goals and extra points.

Long snappers

Long snappers are among the most underrated players in the NFL. They don’t often get the glory that comes with scoring a touchdown or making a big tackle, but their impact on the game can be significant.

As the name suggests, long snappers are responsible for snapping the ball on punts, field goals, and extra points. They need to have a strong arm and precise accuracy to give their team the best chance of success.

Long snappers are often required to make split-second decisions under high pressure, and they need to be able to stay calm in chaotic situations. This type of player is not easy to find, which is why they are so valuable to NFL teams.


Gunners are the players on the outside of the formation on punt coverage. Their job is to get down the field as quickly as possible and make a tackle. Gunners must be fast and agile in order to elude the blockers who are trying to keep them from getting to the punt returner.


The upbacks are the largest and most physical players on the special teams. They line up directly behind the long snapper and are responsible for protecting him from oncoming defenders. Upbacks also act as lead blockers on punt and kickoff returns.

Strategy of Special Teams

In the National Football League, the special teams are units that are responsible for specific tasks during kicking situations. These units work together to execute kicks and punts with the help of the long snapper, who is responsible for snapping the ball to the holder. The kicking unit is usually made up of the kicker, the holder, and the long snapper.

Field goals

Field goals are perhaps the most important aspect of special teams play. A well-executed field goal can be the difference between winning and losing a game, and thus NFL teams place a great deal of emphasis on this facet of the game.

The most common type of field goal is the placekick, in which the ball is placed on a tee and kicked through the uprights. Placekickers must be accurate and have strong leg muscles in order to make successful field goals.

Another type of field goal is the dropkick, which was once the primary method of kicking but has largely fallen out of favor in recent years. In a dropkick, the kicker drops the ball and kicks it as it bounces off the ground. This method is typically used only in situations where a very long field goal attempt is needed.

Punters are also important members of special teams units, as their primary responsibility is to punt the ball away to the opposing team as far downfield as possible. A good punter can significantly impact the outcome of a game by pinning opponents deep in their own territory, making it more difficult for them to score points.

Punt returns

Punt returns are one of the most important aspects of special teams. A good punt returner can give his team good field position and a chance to score. A bad punt returner can cost his team points and field position.

NFL teams usually have a deep threat receiver or running back return punts. The punt returner must be able to catch the ball cleanly and make good decisions on when to run and when to fair catch the ball.

Punt returners must also be able to make defenders miss in the open field and pick up extra yards. They must also be aware of their surroundings and not fair catch the ball inside their own 10-yard line.

Kickoff returns

A typical NFL kickoff returner is a mixture of size, speed and elusiveness. He must be big enough to withstand the physicality of the kick return game, fast enough to outrun most pursuers and elusive enough to make would-be tacklers miss. Several players have made a career out of being exceptional kickoff returners, and their impact on the games they’ve played in cannot be overstated.

The kickoff return game is one of the most exciting aspects of football, as it often provides a team with its best chance to score points in a given game. A good kickoff returner can completely change the complexion of a contest, and his ability to make something out of nothing can be the difference between winning and losing.

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