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If you have watched a kicker prepare for kick-off, you will see that he takes quite a few steps back in preparation, but when it comes to field goals or extra point attempts, he doesn’t take so many steps back – so how many steps can a field goal kicker take?
A field goal kicker will usually take two to four steps back when setting up to kick a field goal or extra point attempt. There is no rule about how many steps he can take, but he is limited to three or four at maximum because the offensive line cannot hold the defense off indefinitely.
Let’s look at this action in more detail to understand why there is a difference between the number of steps a kicker can take from a kick-off vs. a field goal.
A Kicker’s Steps Are Limited By Time & Offensive Power
One of the other reasons that a field goal kicker can only take three or four steps when kicking a field goal is because the play clock is ticking down as well as having the defensive line and players attempting to block the kick.
If a kicker takes too long, the odds increase dramatically that the kick will be blocked or, in extreme cases, he may be tackled, and the ball turned over!
At the snap, the holder has only a second or two to get the ball into position for the kicker, and the further away the kicker is from the ball, the more pressure the holder will be put under by the oncoming defense.
Not only that, but the offensive line will be under pressure to hold the defense back, so the more steps the kicker takes away from the ball, the greater the chance for the defense to disrupt the kick and spoil the attempt for more points.
There has never been any rule regarding the number of steps a field goal kicker can take, and the only laws applicable apply to the field goal itself and that the ball must be kicked within the play clock time limit.
Are Three To Four Steps Enough To Kick A Field Goal?
Most field goals average around 38 yards, and because they are straight out in front of the goalposts, the kicker doesn’t have to spend time lining the kick up as they would in rugby, where penalty kicks are taken from different places on the field.
Because rugby has different rules, kickers will often take more than three or four steps when lining up a kick, but this is because they don’t have a defensive line coming at them or a 30-second play clock.
A skilled kicker can deliver enough force to kick a football 40 yards with just three or four steps, and many kickers only take two steps back from the football on a field goal.
Why Do Some Field Goal Kickers Only Take Two Steps Back?
The kicker is a valuable player in the offensive strategy, and they have often been called on to kick a field goal to win a game. They spend hours practicing and training their technique to make it as efficient as possible.
Kicking a 40-yard field goal with two steps is more efficient than with three or four, as it allows the holder more time to place the ball accurately.
Not only that, but should the holder fumble the ball, he still has time to regather and place it if the kicker is only two steps away.
Remember that although it only takes two or three seconds for the kicker to reach the ball from his starting position, the further away he is, the longer it takes- so being only two steps away from the ball is perfect in terms of time.
How Long Does A Field Goal Take To Kick?
When looking to win a game with a field goal, the offense will run the clock down to about four seconds, and while this doesn’t seem like a lot of time, it is more than enough to drill a field goal home from within 40 yards.
The field goal doesn’t take long to execute, and from the snap, it’s about one second before the ball is placed -assuming the snap is good, and the holder catches it clean- and then another two seconds for the kicker to run in and kick it.
This is why good field goal kickers will spend hours whittling down the time they take to execute a field goal and reducing the number of steps they need to kick the ball accurately and with enough power to carry it over the crossbar.
How Many Steps Can A Kicker Take On A Long Field Goal?
If the field goal attempt is longer, say 40 yards or more, the kicker may extend his run up to three, four, or even five or six steps, depending on how well the offense can hold the line.
Remember that the more force you have at impact, the further the ball will fly, but there are risks involved with longer run-ups.
Firstly, if the run-up is longer than the kicker is used to, he can pull or push the kick wide of the uprights as the long run-up means more chance of error in the approach.
A longer run-up also gives the defense more time to get around the offensive line, block or intercept the kick, and recover possession.
To avoid this, kickers will strengthen their leg muscles and hone their kicking technique so they only have to take three or four steps on long field goals, the same as they would for an extra point attempt or an average field goal.
A field goal kicker can take as many steps as he wants. Still, in most instances, two to three steps, depending on his kicking style, will be more than sufficient to deliver enough force to propel the ball between the uprights and over the crossbar to strike the back netting and make it good!