What Is A Safety In Football?

what is a safety in football

A safety in football is a scoring play that awards two (2) points to the defensive team. This occurs in a few different scenarios, all involving the offensive team being tackled or losing the ball in their own end zone.

How A Safety Can Happen?

1) Tackling the Ball Carrier in the End Zone

The most common way a safety occurs is when a player carrying the ball, usually the quarterback or a running back, is tackled in their own end zone. This can happen due to a strong defensive play or a mistake by the offense.

2) Offensive Foul in the End Zone

If the offense commits certain fouls, such as holding or a personal foul, within their own end zone, it results in a safety. This is to penalize dangerous or unsportsmanlike conduct that might prevent a tackle that would otherwise result in a safety.

3) Quarterback Intentionally Throws Incomplete Pass in the End Zone (Intentional Grounding)

If the quarterback intentionally throws an incomplete pass without a reasonable chance of it being caught to avoid being tackled in the end zone, it is considered intentional grounding, and a safety is awarded.

4) Snapping the Ball out of the End Zone

If the center snaps the ball out of the bounds of the end zone, either over the head of the quarterback or in a wild snap to the side.

5) Offensive Player Steps Out of Bounds in the End Zone

If an offensive player in possession of the ball steps out of bounds in their own end zone.

6) Fumbled Ball Out of Bounds in the End Zone

If the offensive team fumbles the ball and it goes out of bounds in their end zone.

What Happens After A Safety?

  1. Free Kick: The team that conceded the safety must kick the ball to the opposing team from their own 20-yard line. This kick can be a punt, a drop kick, or a placekick without a tee. This is unlike the kickoffs that follow touchdowns and field goals, which are typically kicked off from the 35-yard line.
  2. Receiving the Kick: The team that scored the safety has the opportunity to receive the free kick. This team often tries to return the kick for as many yards as possible. The receiving team can treat the free kick similar to a punt, meaning they can call for a fair catch.
  3. Field Position Advantage: The free kick after a safety usually results in the team that scored the safety gaining advantageous field position. This is because free kicks typically do not travel as far as regular kickoffs. Plus, the kicking team is kicking from a more disadvantaged position (their own 20-yard line).
  4. Continuation of the Game: After the free kick, the game continues in a normal fashion.


Safeties are relatively rare in football compared to other scoring methods. Partly because teams typically try to avoid the situations that could lead to a safety. Therefore, the rarity of a safety make it one of the more exciting and game-changing plays in football.

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