Intentional grounding

In gridiron football, intentional grounding is a violation of the rules where "a passer...throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion."[1] This typically happens when a quarterback about to be sacked passes the ball toward an area of the field with no eligible receiver. Were it not for this rule, the quarterback could easily turn the sack into an incomplete pass which, by rule, would advance the ball back to the line of scrimmage.


A ball carrier, in any location, commits intentional grounding when throwing a pass that does not reach the line of scrimmage; for instance, throwing the football down near himself. An exception is that the quarterback is allowed to spike the ball immediately after receiving it from the center. At the cost of a down, this is a way to stop the clock that a team may use when it has no time outs left.

Intentional grounding is also called if all of the following components are present:

After a flag is thrown, the officials may confer to decide whether all these components were present, and may "pick up the flag" upon finding there was no intentional grounding.


The penalty for intentional grounding has several components so that the offense gains no benefit from the violation:[3]

Pro Bowl

In the NFL Pro Bowl, intentional grounding is legal in order to make the game safer.[5]


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