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In football, if the ball is fumbled and can an opposing team member kick the ball on the ground forwards before diving on it to take possession?

Follow up from the previous question: if the ball is fumbled and an opposing player then kicks it into the end zone and jumps on it to take possession, is that a touchdown?

2 Answers 2

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In the NFL, it is illegal to kick a loose ball.

Rule 12.5.2:

ARTICLE 2. ILLEGALLY KICKING BALL

No player may deliberately kick a loose ball or a ball that is in a player’s possession.

Penalty: For illegally kicking the ball: Loss of 10 yards. If the foul is by Team A before possession changes during a scrimmage down: Loss of down and loss of 10 yards except for a foul by Team A beyond the line of scrimmage during a scrimmage kick, in which case there is no loss of down.

Some notes from the same ruling:

If a loose ball is unintentionally touched by any part of a player’s leg (including the knee), it is not considered kicking and is treated as touching.

The ball is not dead when an illegally kicked ball is recovered, unless another rule prescribes otherwise.

To answer your followup, if the kick is intentional, then it will be a penalty, and no touchdown would be granted (unless the penalty were declined). If the kick is deemed unintentional, then it will be recoverable (and would be a touchdown if recovered in the end zone by the opposing team).

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It is illegal to kick the ball intentionally, so as to prevent the opponent from recovering it or to gain any kind of field position advantage. Booting it into the endzone and trying to recover it for a touchdown is still a flag and will not count, the penalty would be assessed at the point at which the ball was kicked. If it's in the middle of a scramble and clearly accidental then it's considered incidental and will probably never be called. Here's a (quite humorous) example of such kicking.

If you're looking for an example of it being called a penalty, here's an (also rather humorous) video of it last year in a college game. The difference is the intent, and it's the referee's judgement to decide that.

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