It's my understanding that if you touch the ground with your head (while in contact with a defender) you are down. Are you down if your head touches the defender who is sitting/laying on the ground (knees, elbows and rest of body have yet to contact ground)? What are the rules surrounding falling on other players?

Was watching the Bears play the Eagles when a Bear caught a pass, then touched an Eagle (who was sitting on ground) with his head, only to have the ball ripped from his possession before any other part of his body touched anything else.

  • No body part is touching the ground, so you are not down by rule
    – Ginge
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 2:46

2 Answers 2


The player is not down because he did not touch the ground with his head. You will sometimes see runners roll over the top of other players who are on the ground and keep going if the referees have not whistled the play dead.


A player is not down until they touch the ground with something other than a hand or foot, either after a tackle or while touched by an opposing player.

Since an opposing player is not the ground, the player is not down. Otherwise any time a defensive player touched the ball carrier, they would be at risk of being downed, since the defender is almost surely standing on the ground at the time.

In your example, this is entirely legitimate play.

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