Football: Downing A PuntPosted: November 17, 2013
Fans can become confused when the kicking team attempts to “down” a punt, particularly when the ball is near the goal line.
NFL Rule 9, Section 2, Article 2 (Page 2/4) allows the receiving team to take the ball at the point either where the kicking team first touches the ball (aka the “first touching”) or where the ball becomes dead, either because the kicking team possesses the ball before the receiving team touches it or the officials whistle the play dead.
Item 2 of Article 2 discusses a touchback, whereby the receiving team gets the ball at its 20 yard line:
If a player of the kicking team touches the goal line with any part of his body while touching the ball, the ball is dead, and the result of the play is a touchback.
Note 3 of Article 2 continues the discussion:
The spot of first touching is normally the yard line at which the ball is at when touched. If the first touching occurs while the ball is in the air above or beyond the goal line, and prior to the ball touching the goal line or the ground beyond the goal line, the spot of first touching is deemed to be the spot from which the touching player left the field of play, but in no event inside the receiving team’s one-yard line.
Read here about fair catches and interference with an opportunity to catch a punt.