What is Targeting in Football?

Those who saw the NFL yesterday and are watching college football today may witness targeting calls that are not typical in the professional game. Targeting is a unique feature in college football, even if the overall regulations are comparable between it and the NFL.

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In college football, the targeting rule was implemented in 2008. This was a reaction to growing criticism of football and its link to concussion-related ailments, particularly those involving the head and neck. As stated in the rule, a player will be punished for targeting if they “takes aim at an opponent for purposes of attacking with forcible contact that goes beyond making a legal tackle or legal block or playing the ball.”

A 15-yard penalty and automatic disqualification follow the penalty. In college football, it is one of the few rules that can result in a direct ejection. The opposition player led with the top of their helmet to an area above the shoulders, and the referees had to take that into account. The targeted player was helpless. This includes direct helmet-to-helmet contact as well.

A few indicators are taken into account when this penalty is applied. When a player moves their foot in an upward or forward motion and strikes their head or neck, it is considered targeting. Even if the person is not off their feet, they nevertheless incur the same penalty when they crouch and shove upward or forward. Another clue is when a player lowers their head to make physical contact. A player is also in violation if they lead an attack with forceful contact to the head or neck region using a helmet, shoulder, forearm, fist, hand, or elbow.

Why then are there no targeting penalties in the NFL?

There is targeting in the NFL as well, although it cannot be penalized on the pitch by being disqualified. The NFL commissioner is tasked with determining what further action to take after hearing the case in each instance.

The NFL does punish helmet-to-helmet contact and shields defenseless players from needless roughness penalties, despite the lack of explicit regulations such as targeting. Unlike college football, though, a 15-yard penalty is always awarded; disqualification is left up to the referees’ judgment. Furthermore, not every hit to the head is penalized by the NFL. Instead, it exclusively penalizes helmet-to-helmet contact and excuses other, possibly unintentional, strikes to the head or facemask.

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Targeting in Football FAQs

1) What does football targeting look like?

A squat with one or both feet still on the ground, followed by an upward and forward thrust to strike with force at the head or neck region. To attack with forceful contact to the head or neck region, lead with the elbow, hand, fist, shoulder, forearm, or helmet.

2) How long has football targeted players?

When a player made contact with an opponent with the crown of their helmet in 2008, the NCAA instituted the targeting rule. It was also forbidden for players to make physical contact above the shoulders with an unarmed opponent.

3) In the NFL, what does “targeted” mean?

Straightforward justification. The ball is thrown to a receiver by your QB. The receiver was the intended recipient whether or not he caught it. That is the objective.


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