Football: Helping The Ball Carrier

SHORT ANSWER:  You can push the ball carrier; you cannot pull him.


NCAA Football 2013 and 2014 Rules and Interpretations Rule 9, Section 3, Article 2-b (Page FR-96 or 98/216 on my reader) states:

The ball carrier shall not grasp a teammate; and no other player of his team
shall grasp, pull, or lift him to assist him in forward progress.

Rule 9-3-2-b then references A.R. (Approved Rule) 9-3-2-I (Page 64 of the A.R.’s or 199/216 on my reader), which provides a precise example and discussion of this rule.  This A.R. states:

In trying to gain yardage, ball carrier A44 is slowed by defensive
players attempting to make the tackle. Back A22 (a) puts his hands
on the buttocks of A44 and pushes him forward; (b) pushes the pile of
teammates who begin to surround A44; (c) grabs the arm of A44 and
tries to pull him forward for more yardage.

(a) and (b) Legal.
It is not a foul to push the ball carrier or the pile.

(c) Foul for assisting the runner. 5-yard penalty with three-and-one enforcement. (Rule 9-3-

In comparison, NFL Rule 12, Section 1, Article 4-a (Page 2/11) prohibits offensive players from “pull[ing] a runner in any direction at any time”.  The rule’s silence regarding pushing a runner is telling; it is legal.  In fact, A.R. 12-2 at the bottom of page two provides a specific example of a ball carrier being pushed into the end zone by a teammate.  The ruling?  Touchdown.

(NFL Rules do prohibit pushing a teammate to obstruct an opponent or to recover a loose ball but do not prohibit pushing to advance a runner.)

In summary, college and professional rules allow teammates to assist ball carriers.  Sometimes knowing what is not prohibited is as important as knowing what is.


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