After a fair catch, an NFL team has the right to take a free kick from the line of scrimmage on the next play. If the kick goes through the uprights, the kicking team scores 3 points. It is also known as a “free kick field goal.”

What special rules apply?

  1. There is no snap.
  2. The defense must stand at least 10 yards from the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked.
  3. The kicking team may not use a tee. The ball must be placed or drop-kicked.
  4. Even if time expired on the preceding play, the fair-catching team may still attempt the kick.

Is there a fair catch kick rule in college football?

Not since 1949. After that season, college football eliminated all fair catches, but that proved impractical. Following the 1950 season, college football restored the fair catch, but explicitly removed the fair catch kick rule. However, the rule still exists in high school football.

Why hasn’t the fair catch kick been eliminated from the NFL rulebook, when it’s clearly a remnant of pre-modern football?

I’m not sure, but inertia is the likely reason. Mac Percival’s game-winning kick in 1968 sparked the NFL to re-evaluate the rule that offseason, but no change was made.

Who was the most visible proponent of the fair catch kick?

John Madden. Whenever a team was trapped deep in its own territory near the end of a half, Madden would reference the fair catch kick, and mention that he always wanted to try one, but never had the chance. Ironically, the Madden series of video games has never included the fair catch kick, though its sister franchise, NCAA Football, contained the equally-obscure one-point safety.

How many times has a fair catch kick been attempted in an NFL game?

Art McNally, the longtime officiating boss through 1990 and institutional memory of all things officiating, admitted in 2004 that the NFL has no idea. It’s impossible to determine through box scores; a successful fair catch kick is recorded as a field goal, and an unsuccessful one is recorded as a missed field goal. The only possible way is through contemporary game reports, and some of those don’t detail the specifics of a 2nd quarter field goal. Fred Cox’s 1966 fair catch kick came in the 2nd quarter of a December game between the 1-10 Falcons and the 3-7-1 Vikings; game articles about the game in major newspapers are, understandably, one or two paragraphs long and make no mention of it. I originally found reference to it in a Cox quote after Cofer’s 1989 fair catch kick, and later found confirmation in the Atlanta Journal game report.

NFL fair-catch kicks

All games here have been fully verified. The list is likely incomplete, but is definitely complete for 1964-1968 and 1979-2023.

Regular season

  1. Curly Lambeau, Green Bay vs. Evansville Crimson Giants, November 6, 1921.
    Good from <35 in the 2nd quarter. Evansville had the ball inside the 10, and the punt “was sky high but only went about 25 yards.”
  2. George Abramson, Green Bay vs. Chicago Cardinals, November 8, 1925.
    Wide left from 35 in the 4th quarter. (Originally, this list had this kick as good, as was reported by the Chicago Tribune.  However, the Green Bay Press-Gazette from the next day included a full play-by-play of the game, which clarifies that the fair catch kick was missed, and that the Tribune had confused it with a made 35-yarder from the next Packers drive.)
  3. Ken Strong, New York Giants vs. Green Bay, November 26, 1933.
    Good from 30 yards in the 3rd quarter.
  4. Ben Agajanian, New York Giants vs. Pittsburgh, October 23, 1955.
    Missed from 56 yards with about 30 seconds left in the first half.
  5. Gordy Soltau, San Francisco vs. Detroit, November 2, 1958.
    Wide right from 61 yards with 15 seconds left in the first half.
  6. Sam Baker, Philadelphia vs. New York Giants, September 13, 1964.
    Short from 47 yards at the end of the first half.
  7. Paul Hornung, Green Bay vs. Chicago, September 13, 1964.
    Good from 52 yards at the end of the first half.
  8. Fred Cox, Minnesota vs. Atlanta, December 4, 1966.
    Good from 40 yards at the end of the first half.
  9. Bruce Gossett, Los Angeles Rams vs. Detroit, November 23, 1967.
    Short from 55 yards with 3 seconds in the first half.
  10. Mac Percival, Chicago vs. Green Bay, November 3, 1968.
    Good from 43 yards with 20 seconds left (won 13-10).
  11. Fred Cox, Minnesota vs. San Francisco, December 8, 1968.
    Short from 47 yards at the end of the first half.
  12. Curt Knight, Washington vs. San Francisco, October 5, 1969.
    Wide left from 56 yards with 2 seconds left (tied 17-17).
  13. Horst Muhlmann, Cincinnati vs. San Diego, September 21, 1969.
    Short and wide from 60 yards at the end of the first half.
  14. Tom Dempsey, New Orleans vs. San Francisco, November 23, 1969.
    Short and wide left from 57 yards, likely at the end of the first half.
  15. Jim Bakken, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh, November 30, 1969.
    Short from 60 yards at the end of the first half.
  16. Sam Baker, Philadelphia vs. San Francisco, December 21, 1969.
    Wide from 46 yards near the end of the first half.
  17. Curt Knight, Washington vs. Denver, November 1, 1970.
    Wide left from 49 yards at the end of the first half.
  18. David Ray, Los Angeles Rams vs. Baltimore Colts, November 8, 1971.
    Missed from 45 yards at the end of the first half.
  19. Horst Muhlmann, Cincinnati vs. Kansas City, October 21, 1973.
    Short from 57 yards at the end of the first half.
  20. Ray Wersching, San Diego vs. Buffalo, November 21, 1976.
    Good from 45 at the end of the first half. This kick put the Chargers up 27-10, and so is missing from most brief recaps of the game. This, not Mac Percival’s game-winner in 1968, is the last known successful NFL free kick.
  21. Mark Moseley, Washington vs. New York Giants, November 25, 1979.
    Short from 74 (yes, 74) yards with 54 seconds left (the Redskins were trailing 14-6 and hoped to score quickly & recover the onside kick; there was no 2-point conversion rule until 1994).
  22. Fred Steinfort, Denver vs. New England, September 29, 1980.
    Short from 73 yards at the end of the first half. The game was in Foxboro.
  23. Raul Allegre, Indianapolis vs. New England, November 18, 1984.
    Short from 61 yards at the end of the first half. This is probably the only fair catch kick after a kickoff; the Patriots, up 26-10 right before halftime, tried to onside kick.
  24. Rob Bironas, Tennessee vs. Houston Texans, October 9, 2005.
    Short from 58 yards at the end of the first half.
  25. Neil Rackers, Arizona vs. New York Giants, November 23, 2008.
    Short and wide left from 68 yards at the end of the first half.
  26. Mason Crosby, Green Bay vs. Detroit, December 28, 2008.
    Just short from 69 yards at the end of the first half.
  27. Phil Dawson, San Francisco vs. St. Louis, September 26, 2013.
    Short and wide left from 71 yards at the end of the first half.
  28. Joey Slye, Carolina vs. Tampa Bay in London, October 13, 2019.
    Wide right from 60 yards at the end of the first half.


  1. Lou Michaels, Baltimore Colts vs. Dallas, January 9, 1966. NFL PLAYOFF BOWL
    Wide from 57 yards at the end of the first half.
  2. Mike Cofer, San Francisco vs. Minnesota, January 1, 1989. NFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF
    Short from 60 yards at the end of the first half.


  1. Bobby Howfield, New York Jets vs. Oakland, August 14, 1971.  PRESEASON
    Short from 52 yards at the end of the first half.
  2. Chester Marcol, College All-Stars vs. Dallas, July 28, 1972. COLLEGE ALL-STAR GAME
    Short from 68 yards at the end of the first half.
  3. Mac Percival, Chicago vs. Houston Oilers, August 9, 1972. PRESEASON
    Short from 60 yards with 15 seconds left.  The Bears recovered the loose ball on the Oilers’ 1 and kicked the winning conventional field goal on the next play.
  4. Chester Marcol, Green Bay vs. Buffalo, August 11, 1973. PRESEASON
    Short from 45 yards with 20 seconds remaining in the first half. Buffalo caught the ball at the 3 and returned it to their 42.
  5. Horst Muhlmann, Cincinnati vs. Atlanta, September 2, 1973. PRESEASON
    Wide right from 50 yards at the end of the first half.
  6. Pepe Guzman, San Francisco vs. San Diego, August 16, 1974. PRESEASON
    Short from 60 yards with 3 seconds left in the first half.
  7. Rafael Septien, Dallas vs. Houston Oilers, August 30, 1986. PRESEASON
    Missed from 53 yards with 24 seconds left at the end of the game (lost 17-14).
  8. Chris Gardocki, Chicago vs. Philadelphia, August 8, 1993. PRESEASON
    Short from 63 yards at the end of the first half.

Opportunity for fair-catch kick passed up

This includes only fair catches made with no time remaining, or where the fair-catching team attempted a field goal on the next play:

  1. Detroit vs. Baltimore Colts, November 25, 1965.
    Tied at 24, the Lions fair caught a punt on the Baltimore 42 with 24 seconds left. However, they inexplicably decided to attempt a 50-yard FG from scrimmage rather than the 42-yard free kick; Wayne Walker’s attempt was low, nearly blocked, and came up short. The game ended in a 24-24 tie.
  2. Kansas City vs. Miami, December 25, 1971. AFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF
    Tied at 24, the Chiefs fair caught a punt at their own 32 near the end of regulation. Chiefs’ coach Hank Stram feared a Mercury Morris return of a short miss of the 68-yard FG, and decided not to kick.
  3. New England vs. New York Jets, October 12, 1986.
    Down 31-24, Irving Fryar inexplicably fair caught a punt deep in his own territory with no time left. The Patriots didn’t request the kick, nor did the referees ask them if they wanted one; referee Jerry Seeman said after the game that “it’s the player’s responsibility to come and ask for the extension.” For those interested, the Patriots were favored by 7, so a successful kick would have had no impact on the spread.
  4. Dallas vs. Atlanta, September 20, 1999.
    Wayne McGarity fair caught a punt on the Atlanta 47 with no time left in the first half. Dallas coach Chan Gailey knew of the rule, and had specifically instructed McGarity to fair catch the punt if it was inside the 50, but Gailey forgot that he would be able to attempt the kick with no time left on the clock. Instead, the Cowboys went to the locker room.
  5. Detroit vs. Chicago, October 30, 2005.
    Tied at 13, Eddie Drummond fair caught a punt at his own 28 with no time left in regulation. The Lions reasonably declined the chance at making an 82-yard free kick, and the game went to overtime.
  6. Arizona vs. St. Louis Rams, September 24, 2006.
    Down 16-14, Troy Walters fair caught a punt at his own 33 with no time left in regulation. Arizona’s Robert Griffith was offside on the punt, but Rams coach Scott Linehan declined the penalty, thinking the game was over. Neil Rackers and the Cardinals’ field goal unit lined up for the 77-yard free kick, but the Rams, given another chance to accept the penalty, did so, and took a knee on the final play of the game.
  7. Dallas vs. Green Bay, January 15, 2017. NFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF
    The Cowboys’ Cole Beasley fair caught a punt at his own 38 with no time left in the first half.  Dallas headed straight for the locker room, and the Fox broadcast crew made no mention of the fair catch kick opportunity.

58 thoughts on “NFL fair-catch kick attempts

  1. I read a story several years ago in an old Random House sports book about it and wanted to see if my memory served me correctly. I was right.

  2. Amazing, you had the Neil Rackers miss posted within 2 minutes of his miss. Absolutely amazing. I google searched the fair catch free kick rules right after he missed and your site popped up, with his miss recorded.

  3. Sweet jesus, I can’t believe you already updated this two year old page after that attempt by Rackers. Well done, sir! 🙂

  4. Wow. I cannot believe how quickly this page was updated. Just came here to learn about the fair catch free kick and lo and behold, you list the Cards attempt from 5 minutes ago!

  5. Travis: Amazing that you added today’s attempt in the Giant – Cardinal game immediately (and before my Google search on the rule led me to your site). Great work.

  6. Travis, you are on your game. Just finished watching the AZ Cardinals fair catch kick, didn't quite understand what it was, did a search and found you site with the NYG&AZ Cards updated already. It was not even 2 minutes after kick was attempted. Excellent Job!


  7. Its just crazy that you were watching the game, remembered your two year old post, thought to post and had a computer to post on readily available, and furthermore did so before any of us could have even gotten here. Someone is going to offer this man a job.

  8. Wow, you updated your website just after today’s fair catch kick attempt – nice work! I believe the Philadelphia Eagles attempted a fair catch kick at the end of the 1st half of a regular season game in the 1990s – cannot remember which game.

  9. Pretty interesting that you sit around every Sunday waiting for this oppurtunity to post updates on free kicks. Where would we all be without the Internet? Well done

  10. I wanted to find the rule so I went on google. But i almost fell off my chair when I saw the kick from Rackers on the page. Great work!!!!!

  11. I just saw this attempted for the first time, decided to look up the rule, and you already had #18 on the list. You are the man!

  12. I’m a high school football coach and could only vaguely remember something about this until today. I researched it online and came across your site – BRAVO! Keep up the great work!

  13. Haha, I was watching the NY AZ game, and google searched to find the rule, came across this page, and you already have the Rackers attempt on there 3 minutes afterwards. THAT is impressive.

  14. Just came across this – cool site. If I remember correctly, the Redskins' Steve Cox tried one from about 70 yards sometime around 1986 or 1987. Cox was primarily the 'Skins punter, but also kicked off and sometimes tried long FGs. I think he was the last "straight-on" kicker in the NFL.

  15. I wonder when Bill Belichick will get to try this. I have no doubt he knows the rule. Let's put it this way, he certainly knew the drop-kick rule (even if Doug Flutie suggested it to him, I'm convinced it was not a surprise to Belichick), and the fair catch/free kick rule is just as obscure. I'm probably the only person on Earth screaming "fair catch" when a punt (or even an onside kickoff) is made near halftime or the end of game. In fact, when an onside kick is made, do you notice why the kicker drills the ball into the ground? Because if the ball is in the air, the receiving team can (and ALWAYS SHOULD) call for a fair catch. Buffalo tried an onside kick against Miami earlier this year by pooching it – to my total shock and amazement. And Miami gladly accepted the gift by having someone raise his hand and call for a fair catch. Stupidest onside kick I've ever seen – the special teams coach should have been fired for that alone, or the kicker cut. Just – plain – stupid!

  16. By the way, this is a great blog. I added it to my favorites. And some day Bill Belichick will try this (I'm obviously a Pats fan)…

  17. Hello,

    Out of curiosity, in doing some cursory searching, it is clear to me that the Internet NFL community as a whole is confused about the issue of what Howard Cosell said when he made his various "monkey" comments. These comments may be tied to Alvin Garrett and Mike Adamle but it is not at all clear.

    The Internet community as a whole claims that Howard Cosell made BOTH of these comments.

    1. "That little monkey get loose doesn't he?" (Sept 5th, 1983 on Monday Night Football, referring to Alvin Garrett)


    2. "Look at that little monkey run!" (Unknown game)

    I am looking for someone who knows what Cosell said, and during which games he said this.

    Thank you all in advance for sharing your knowledge of this subject.

  18. There was a 1999 HBO documentary, "Howard Cosell: Telling It Like It Is," ( which had film of both the offending "monkey" remark and a similar one made on July 29, 1972 about a white player, Mike Adamle. I can't find clips of "Telling It Like It Is" online, but a review of that documentary: ( states this:

    "His fame so overshadowed his other achievements that by the time Cosell referred to the Washington Redskins' Alvin Garrett in 1983 as "that little monkey," it caused a furor. Many observers, deliberately or not, overlooked Cosell's sterling record on civil rights. The Rev. Joseph Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Council and others demanded an apology. Cosell being Cosell, none was forthcoming. On this charge, "Telling It Like It Is" exonerates Cosell. Besides a host of reputable witnesses, who note that Cosell often used that phrase, the producers have found a clip of a 1972 preseason game between the Chiefs and New York Giants in which Cosell calls another player "that little monkey. " Only this time the player is white: Mike Adamle, the pint-sized scrambler for the Chiefs, now a sportscaster."

    Best I can tell, you have the two quotes correct, although I can't find the full Adamle quote anywhere.

    The full Garrett quote: "[Joe Gibbs] wanted to get that kid, and that little monkey gets loose, doesn't he?''"

  19. I was lucky enough to recently watch that 1999 HBO special, and while it did contain some actual vintage NFL game footage and commentary by Cosell, there was no footage included of either of his "monkey" comments.

    The July 29, 1972 preseason game between the KC Chiefs and New York Giants is the correct game of when he said "Look at that little monkey run." I would love to get a clip of that commentary.

  20. Travis… yes I am referring to what I found posted on Youtube in five parts. Who would have removed that portion of the video? Man I would love to see that part where Cosell says "Look at that little monkey run." In searching around I did find this blog which clearly sets the record straight about the two separate incidents in which Cosell used the term Monkey. Definitely worth a look.

    ps: sorry bout this being OT!

  21. I was watching a broadcast of a Packers-Buccaneers matchup from 1979, called by Dick Stockton and John Madden. The subject of FC kicks came up, and Madden said "Cincinnati did it not too many years ago with Paul Brown". He wasn't any more specific than that.

    Madden also said the FC Kick was something he always wanted to try as a coach, but never had the opportunity.

  22. The last time I looked at the rule book for High School football, a team receiving possession after a fair catch had the choice of putting the ball in play with a snap or a kick. If there was a dead ball foul prior to the snap by either team, the snap/kick option remained.

  23. In one of the Minnesota games I watched where Cox kicked the field goal and missed, the clock ran out while the punt was in the air. As the rules stated if that happens the receiving team still gets the free kick.

  24. Don Chandler kicked a 49 yd FG at the end of the first half on a free kick in Baltimore on November 5, 1967. I was 14 years old and was listening to the game with my Dad on the radio in Baltimore. I had never seen or heard of a free kick used for a FG until that moment. It was the only score of the half. The game ended in a 13-10 Baltimore Colts win, with 2 TDs in the last 2 minutes to win the game. On the Colts' first TD their PAT failed and they had to recover an onsides kick to score the TD to win the game with seconds remaining.

    BTW, your page about these free kick FGs is just plain great! Thank you!

  25. According to both the next day's Green Bay Post-Gazette and Baltimore Sun, Chandler's 49-yard field goal came "early in the second quarter", and happened 3 plays after the Packers recovered a fumble at the Baltimore 32.

    Chandler DID miss a 42-yarder at the end of the first half, and that might have been a free kick, but none of the game recaps detail the play or its lead-up.

  26. I thought we might see this at the end of regulation of the superbowl. The fair catch was made at New England's 35, so it would have been a 75 yard kick.

  27. Yes we thought of this last night at the end of regulation of the Super Bowl – it should have been attempted – not sure if the NE coaching staff was aware but me and my friends at the watching party were!

  28. I remember watching a Raiders game in 1970 where George Blanda threw a TD pass and then kicked a fair-catch FG in the last few seconds to win a game. I looked up his games online and I believe this was in the Oakland-Cleveland game on Nov. 8, 1970.

  29. Okay. I have to ask. Just how short was Moseley’s 74yd attempt in 1979? Moseley could kick the ball a mile in 1979 so I am curious close he got.

  30. I wonder now as I wondered on Feb 5, 2017, why Belichick didn’t try one in the Super Bowl when Edelman fair-caught at his own 35 with three seconds left in regulation of the tied game.

  31. You can add Green Bay vs Detroit from Thanksgiving of 2023 to the “passed up a chance” list. GB fair caught at there own 44 yard line and passed on a free kick field goal with 5 seconds left. 66 yarder would have been the attempt.

    1. In order to be on the “opportunity passed up” list, there must be no time remaining on the clock, otherwise the list would be out of control. The situations listed were when the coach declined to extend the half by an untimed down for a fair-catch kick.

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