SECTION 4. Catch, Recovery, Possession



Possession refers to custody of (a) a live ball as described later in this article and (b) a dead ball to be snapped or free-kicked. It may refer either to player possession or team possession.

  1. Player Possession
    The ball is in player possession when a player has the ball firmly in his grasp by holding or controlling it while contacting the ground inbounds.

  2. Team Possession
    The ball is in team possession:

    1. When one of its players has player possession, including when he is attempting a punt, drop kick or place kick; or

    2. While a forward pass thrown by a player of that team is in flight; or

    3. During a loose ball if a player of that team last had player possession; or

    4. When the team is next to snap or free kick the ball.

  3. A team is in legal possession if it has team possession when its players are eligible to catch or recover the ball.

Belongs To


“Belongs to,’’ as contrasted with “in possession,’’ denotes custody of a dead ball. Such custody may be temporary, because the ball must next be put in play in accordance with rules governing the existing situation. Catch, Interception, Recovery


  1. To catch a ball means that a player:

    1. Secures control of a live ball in flight before the ball touches the ground, and

    2. Touches the ground in bounds with any part of his body, and then

    3. Maintains control of the ball long enough to enable him to perform an act common to the game, i.e., long enough to pitch or hand the ball, advance it, avoid or ward off an opponent, etc., and

    4. Satisfies paragraphs b, c, and d below.

  2. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent) he must maintain complete and continuous control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or in the end zone. This is also required for a player attempting to make a catch at the sideline and going to the ground out of bounds. If he loses control of the ball which then touches the ground before he regains control, it is not a catch. If he regains control inbounds prior to the ball touching the ground it is a catch.

  3. If the player loses control of the ball while simultaneously touching the ground with any part of his body, or if there is doubt that the acts were simultaneous, it is not a catch. If a player has control of the ball, a slight movement of the ball, even if it touches the ground, will not be considered loss of possession; he must lose control of the ball in order for there to be a loss of possession.

  4. If the ball touches the ground after the player secures control and continues to maintain control, and the elements above are satisfied, it is a catch.

  5. An interception is a catch of an opponent’s pass or fumble.

  6. A catch by any kneeling or prone inbounds player is a completion or interception (Rules 7-3-6 and 7).

  7. A player recovers a ball if he fulfills the criteria in paragraphs a, b, c, and d for catching a ball that is still alive after hitting the ground.

  8. When in question, the catch, recovery or interception is not completed.

Simultaneous Catch or Recovery


A simultaneous catch or recovery is a catch or recovery in which there is joint possession of a live ball by opposing players inbounds (A.R. 7-3-6-I-II).

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