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Is there a limit to how close the ball gets spotted behind the line of scrimmage during a field goal attempt?

I regularly watch the NFL and on the field goals the holder awaits for the ball about 8 yards behind the line of scrimmage. It seems like the ball is always kicked from 8 yards behind the scrimmage no matter the yardage of the kick; ie. if it's a 20 yard attempt or a 60 yarder. Although at times this distance looks to be much closer to 7 yards than 8. Is there a rule that dictates this distance has to be respected or all teams have converged to kick about 8 yard behind the scrimmage over time?

2 Answers 2

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There is no rule about the required exact distance from the line of scrimmage. It can be taken from the line itself or behind. They kick from 7 yards behind the line primarily because they're used to it.

The only rule covering this is Rule 11.4.1 Successful Field Goal (link):

a) The kick must be a placekick or dropkick made by the offense from on or behind the line of scrimmage or from the spot of a fair catch (fair catch kick). If a fair catch is made or awarded outside the inbound line, the spot of the kick is the nearest inbound line.
(...)

However, because Field Goal trys have little to no margin for errors the players will do anything they can to succeed. This includes a fair distance from the LoS and always the same distance whenever possible...

  • A shorter distance may get the ball blocked while a longer distance is harder to snap and an unnecessary extra distance for the kick.
  • The snap needs to be very precise in order to give the holder the chance to place the ball correctly before the kicker arrives. That would be a difficult task if the distance is varying.


TL;DR:

It's allowed to use other distances, but it would be an unnecessary risk (and a lot of extra training work). That's why they don't do that.

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There actually is a rule that applies here, and it pertains to legal formations. Field goals are kicked from a scrimmage kick formation, and in order to be a legal scrimmage kick formation, the holder must be a minimum of 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

While it's legal to kick a field goal from a formation that's not a scrimmage kick formation (i.e. it would still count),doing so voids all protections due the kicker, holder, and snapper. It also negates the numbering exception (NCAA: 5 linemen numbered 50-79; NFL: ends must be eligible). So even though there's no reason a kicker can't set up more than 7 yards back (a slight but low possibility for a long, low trajectory kick), you'll never see the kicker be closer than that, because of the formation rules.

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