Football Ops

Football Ops

Protecting the integrity of the greatest game.

NFL Ops: Honoring the Game

It's our responsibility to strengthen the sport.

League Governance

Ensuring a consistent and fair game that is decided on the field, by the players.

NFL Rules Enforcement

Ensuring that players conduct themselves in a way that honors the sport and respects the game.

NFL Way to Play

Knees Bent. Pads Down. Head Up and Out.

The NFL and HBCUs

The NFL is proud of the HBCU professional football legacy.

Economic & Social Impact

Honoring the league’s commitment to serve the communities where the game is played.

The NFL Ops Team

Meet the people behind NFL Operations.

The Game

The Game

Learn about the people, the jobs and the technology that deliver the best game possible to NFL fans across the U.S. and around the world. 

Game Day: Behind the Scenes

Countdown to kickoff: how NFL games happen.

Technology

In the NFL, balancing technology with tradition.

Impact of Television

How television has changed the game.

History of Instant Replay

Upon further review…

Creating the NFL Schedule

It takes hundreds of computers and five NFL executives to create the NFL’s 256-game masterpiece.

Big Data Bowl

The annual analytics contest explores statistical innovations in football — how the game is played and coached.

Youth Football

Promoting the values of football.

The Players

The Players

Learn how NFL players have changed over time, how they’re developed and drafted and how the league works with them after their playing days are over.  

Evolution of the NFL Player

Creating an NFL player: from “everyman” to “superman.”

Development Pipeline

Supporting the next generation of players and fans.

Getting Into the Game

Preparing players of all ages for success at football’s highest level.

The NFL Draft

Introducing the next wave of NFL superstars. 

NFL Player Engagement

A look at the programs and services NFL Player Engagement provides to assist every player before, during and after his football career.

College All Star Games

Strengthening football and the community.

NFL Legends Community

Strengthening the NFL brotherhood.

The Officials

The Officials

Discover the evolution of professional officiating, the weekly evaluation process and how the NFL identifies and develops the next generation of officials.

In Focus: History of the Official

“One thing hasn’t changed: the pressure. It will always be there.”

Inside NFL GameDay Central

The latest information from the NFL's officiating center.

These Officials Are Really Good

Every week, officials take the field ready to put months of preparation, training and hard work on display, knowing that the whole world — and the Officiating Department — is watching.

Officiating Development

Officiating an NFL game takes years of training and experience. 

The Rules

The Rules

NFL Football Operations protects the integrity of the game by ensuring that the rules and the officiating are consistent and fair to all competitors.

In Focus: Evolution of the NFL Rules

The custodians of football not only have protected its integrity, but have also revised its playing rules to protect the players, and to make the games fairer and more entertaining.

NFL Video Rulebook

The NFL Video Rulebook explains NFL rules with video examples.

2019 NFL Rulebook

Explore the official rules of the game. 6.2.5

2019 Rules Changes and Points of Emphasis

NFL Overtime Rules

NFL Tiebreaking Procedures

The NFL's procedures for breaking ties for postseason playoffs.

Signals Intelligence

The NFL's familiar hand signals help fans better understand the game.   

NFL Rules Digest

A quick reference guide to the NFL rulebook.

Football 101

Football 101

Terms Glossary

Sharpen your NFL football knowledge with this glossary of the game's fundamental terms. 

Formations 101

See where the players line up in pro football's most common offensive and defensive formations.

Quick Guide to NFL TV Graphics

Understand what the graphics on NFL television broadcasts mean and how they can help you get the most out of watching NFL games.

NFL Instant Replay Process

The NFL’s instant replay review process focuses on expediting instant replay reviews and ensuring consistency. Learn how it works.

Stats Central

Stats Central

Go inside the game with the NFL's official game stats. Sort the stats by season or by week.

The Extra Point

Welcome to the Extra Point, where members of the NFL's football data and analytics team will share updates on league-wide trends in football data, interesting visualizations that showcase innovative ways to use the league's data, and provide an inside look at how the NFL uses data-driven insight to improve and monitor player and team performance.

Chart The Data

Chart and compare the NFL Football Operations stats you're looking for with the NFL's data tool. 

Weekly Dashboard

Get a snapshot of the current NFL game stats, updated weekly during the regular season.

The Extra Point

Visualizing the Special Teams Gunner

NFL special teams players may not be household names, but they play a valuable role in their team’s success. One key special teams player is the punt-team “gunner” – a player who lines up near the sideline, with the goal of moving downfield as fast as possible to eventually tackle the punt returner. The main challenge of being a gunner – there’s usually at least one defender in your way. 

"You're trying to beat two guys in what amounts to a running street fight at a sprint,” said Steve Tasker, to Esquire Magazine. Tasker would know – as a seven-time Pro Bowler and five-time first-team All-Pro, he’s considered one of the best gunners in NFL history.

Though it’s difficult to highlight Tasker’s effectiveness today without the help of video, we can use Next Gen Stats to compare and contrast how today’s gunners operate. 

For example, we took the player from each team who has played the gunner role most often for his team in 2019 (Weeks 1 to 7). Below is each player's path, standardized so that they are starting at the same line of scrimmage (moving from the bottom of the image to the top), and using only punts in which each gunner was defended by one player only. Players are arranged in order by who covered the most vertical distance on their coverages in the first 4.5 seconds after the punt, with Justin Bethel (formerly with the Baltimore Ravens, now with the New England Patriots) traveling the furthest in the top left, and George Odom (Indianapolis Colts) traveling the shortest in the bottom right.

One aspect that stands out is how while some gunners only line up on certain sides (Ameer Abdullah on the Minnesota Vikings favors the offense’s left side, while the Cleveland Browns’ KhaDarel Hodge lines up on the right, for example), others like New England’s Matthew Slater are equally likely to line up on either side. In the chart, the typical gunner appears on about 25 punt plays. 

Although tough to determine in the chart, the effectiveness of certain gunners in moving downfield is interesting. Players in the top row, for example, are about 28 yards downfield, roughly six yards further ahead than players in the bottom row. 

Finally, with Bethel recently signing with the Patriots, New England now boasts two of the league’s fastest gunners (Slater is a seven-time Pro Bowler). 

Other interesting gunner tidbits?

  • Matthew Slater, Josh Bellamy (New York Jets) and Brandon Wilson (Cincinnati Bengals) each have been double teamed by defenders 15 times, leading the league. 
  • Against single defenders, no one travels quicker in the play's first two seconds than Johnny Holton Jr. of the Pittsburgh Steelers. At that point, Holton is an average of 7.7 yards downfield, typically about 0.4 yards in front of the next fastest gunner at that point (Slater).
  • When facing two defenders, Dee Virgin (Detroit Lions) and Trenton Cannon (New York Jets) are the only two gunners to average being at least 20 yards downfield at the 4.5-second mark after a snap.
  • The Miami Dolphins lead the league in the rate with which they double team at least one gunner, doing so on 62 percent of punts. Alternatively, the New Orleans Saints put two defenders on a gunner on only 20 percent of opponent punts.
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