NFL Video Rulebook

The NFL Video Rulebook explains NFL rules with video examples.

Intentional Grounding

Rule Summary View Official Rule

INTENTIONAL GROUNDING

It is a foul for intentional grounding if a passer, facing an imminent loss of yardage because of pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion. A realistic chance of completion is defined as a pass that is thrown in the direction of and lands in the vicinity of an originally eligible receiver.

Item 1. Passer or Ball Outside Tackle Position. Intentional grounding will not be called when a passer, who is outside, or has been outside, the tackle position,throws a forward pass that lands at or beyond the line of scrimmage, even if no offensive player(s) have a realistic chance to catch the ball (including when the ball lands out of bounds over the sideline or endline). If the ball crosses the line of scrimmage (extended) beyond the sideline, there is no intentional grounding. If a loose ball leaves the area bordered by the tackles, this area no longer exists; if the ball is recovered, all intentional grounding rules apply as if the passer is outside this area.

Item 2. Physical Contact. Intentional grounding should not be called if:

  1. the passer initiates his passing motion toward an eligible receiver and then is significantly affected by physical contact from a defensive player that causes the pass to land in an area that is not in the direction and vicinity of an eligible receiver; or
  2. the passer is out of the pocket, and his passing motion is significantly affected by physical contact from a defensive player that causes the ball to land short of the line of scrimmage.

Item 3. Stopping Clock. A player under center is permitted to stop the game clock legally to save time if, immediately upon receiving the snap, he begins a continuous throwing motion and throws the ball directly into the ground.

Item 4. Delayed Spike. A passer, after delaying his passing action for strategic purposes, is prohibited from throwing the ball to the ground in front of him, even though he is under no pressure from defensive rusher(s).

Penalty: For intentional grounding:

  1. loss of down and 10 yards from the previous spot; or

  2. loss of down at the spot of the foul; or

  3. if the passer is in his end zone when the ball is thrown, it is a safety. See 4-7 for actions to conserve time inside one minute of either half.

Note: If the foul occurs less than 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage, but more than half the distance to the goal line, the ball is to be placed at the spot of the pass.

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