5 Reasons Why Punters Hold for Field Goals

Updated on March 27, 2020
EricDockett profile image

Eric is a former football player, former youth football coach, and lifelong student of the game.

Punter Thomas Morestead holds the ball for kicker Blair Walsh during the 2013 Pro Bowl
Punter Thomas Morestead holds the ball for kicker Blair Walsh during the 2013 Pro Bowl | Source

Why the Punter?

It’s the NFL playoffs, your team is down by two points with a minute left, but they have the ball and they’re driving. They work the clock and fight their way downfield, and with seconds left in the game they line up for a 25-yard field goal for the win. Everyone in your living room is on their feet as the ball is snapped, but something goes horribly wrong.

The football skitters pathetically along the turf, the kicker balks, and the holder panics. With the opposing defense closing in to put an end to the broken play and squash your hopes until next season, the holder regains his composure, snatches up the football and bolts around the end. Miraculously, he ends up in the clear with nobody between him and the end zone!

Your living room erupts with cheers until you realize in horror that the man carrying the ball is the punter. Your home and the stadium fall silent as the defense runs him down, takes the ball from him, and gives him both a wedgie and a wet willie before crushing him into the turf.

Hours later, as you sit in your darkened living room staring at the wall amid a mess of stale snack chips and empty cans, you can’t help but wonder, why do punters hold for field goals?

I mean, punters are great at punting, but anyone can hold for a field goal. Don’t you want someone back there who can do something with the ball if the play falls apart? How about a quarterback, or a speedy wide receiver? At least give your team a chance if something goes wrong.

Some teams do have backup quarterbacks hold for field goals for that very reason, but in the NFL the punter is almost always a better choice.

Here are five reasons why:

1. NFL Rosters Are Limited

Teams can carry 53 players, plus a 10-man practice squad. That’s a total of 63 potential players, but only 46 are allowed to dress for a game. This means teams must make some tough decisions regarding how many of each position player they want to trot out there on Sunday.

Most teams only dress two quarterbacks for each game. That's a starter who gets most of the reps during the week, and a backup who had better be paying attention. Neither of those guys has a lot of time to mess around with special teams.

The same can be said of wide receivers, tight ends, and defensive backs. They may have good hands, but they don’t have a lot of time at their disposal.

Sure you could dress a third quarterback, but the punter is already dressing for the game and doesn’t need to be so involved in the game plan. Which brings us to point number two:

2. Punters Don’t Have a Lot to Do

During the week, while the rest of the team is practicing and working on strategy, kickers and punters are, of course, practicing kicking and punting. But they can’t kick and punt for the entire practice, and many closely monitor their number of kicks each day sort of like a baseball pitcher keeps track of the number of pitches he throws.

Punters need to work with the special teams group at certain points during the week and spend some time in the film, but otherwise, the punter and kicker are two guys who have a whole lot of time to work together.

Holding for field goals and extra points is an important job, and the more a kicker can work with the same holder the better. No position player has as much time to spend with the kicker as the punter does.

3. Punters Have Good Hands

You might think the best player to catch a long snap and make sure it gets safely down for the kick would be a wide receiver or tight end, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But that doesn’t mean the punter is a bad choice.

Half the punter’s job is catching the snap, and I’d bet you’ve seen receivers drop passes way more often than you’ve seen punters drop long snaps. You won’t make it to the NFL as a punter if you can’t catch the ball. Punters have good hands, and for that reason alone they are a good choice to have back there as a holder.

It takes guts to punt a football in the NFL
It takes guts to punt a football in the NFL | Source

4. Punters Work Well Under Pressure

Punting a football is easy. Punting a football with 300-pound monsters flying in to knock your block off is a little harrowing. It takes nerves of steel for a punter to hang in there in such a vulnerable position, knowing he can be crushed at any moment.

This is exactly the kind of coolness you want in your holder. While injuries to a holder are rare, and the holder is protected from roughing the same as the kicker, they are still in a defenseless position.

If you need somebody to calmly catch a snap, spin the ball perfectly and place it on the turf while eleven large, angry men are trying to mangle them, the punter is your guy.

5. Punters Are Good Athletes

Seriously. We joke about punters and kickers as being kind of wimpy, and that’s unfair. These guys know they might have to make a tackle or take on a blocker on any play, and they prepare.

The average NFL punter is bigger, stronger and faster than most people you know in the real world. They don’t look quite so good compared to the extreme talent in the NFL, but they’re not totally helpless out there. Many great plays are made every week by punters who show some guts in the clutch.

Punters also know what to do when a play breaks down. Most punts go off without a hitch, but it only takes one bad or mishandled snap or missed block and they are running for their lives back there.

What About the Long Snapper?

You may have noticed that most teams have a guy on their roster who plays a position called long snapper. All he does is (you guessed it) long snaps for punts and kicks. He plays no other position, so why would a team waste a roster spot on this guy when the center should be able to handle this duty?

There are a few reasons, first and foremost being that by hiring a dedicated long snapper you’re creating a 3-player battery that can practice together every day until field goals and extra points are down to second nature. The center probably could serve as a decent long snapper in most cases, but by putting in a fresh man hired specifically for his ability to snap the ball mistakes due to fatigue are less likely to occur.

Of course, the downside is losing a roster spot, but when you consider all of the games that come down to two points or less it's easy to see why a long snapper is worth it.

The Importance of Special Teams

So far this article has only discussed NFL football, but what about college? College football teams do not have the tight roster restrictions we see in the NFL. During the regular season, they often have a hundred or more players on the team. Most conferences limit the traveling roster to 70-75 players, but that still leaves a lot of room. So, we will see position players holding for field goals a little more commonly in college ball.

In the NFL the kicker, punter and long snapper work together on one of the toughest parts of the football game. Even though having the punter as a holder might mean disaster if anything goes wrong with the kick, the way a special teams coach handles these three players can make it less likely disaster will occur to begin with.

So, next time your team lines up for the game-winning field goal and your buddies start to get a little anxious, assure them that the punter and long snapper have everything under control, and the kick is as good as automatic.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, howtheyplay.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)