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Today's Tidbit... 1876 IFA Rule #55: Charge At Once
This is #55 in a series covering football's original 61 rules adopted by the Intercollegiate Football Association in 1876. We review one rule each Friday.
A free kick occurred when a team could punt or kick the ball while the opposing team was kept behind a restraining line and could not charge until the punter or kicker executed specific actions. Rule 54 prescribed the requirements of the defensive team in those situations. Rule 55 does the opposite by detailing other cases in which the defensive team could charge if the punter or kicker violated the norms of certain situations.
Rule 55: If a player having the ball, when about to punt it out goes outside of the goal-line, or when about to punt-on advances nearer to his own goal-line than his mark, made on making the fair catch, or if after the ball has been touched down in the opponents’ goal, or a fair catch has been made, more than one player of the side which has so touched it down, or made the fair catch, touch the ball before it is again kicked, the opposite may charge at once.
According to Rule 55, the defense could charge the punter or kicker when he:
Crossed the goal line when punting out
Stepped beyond his heel mark and closer to the opponent’s goal when punting on.
In either case, the punter/kicker needed to quickly move behind their restraining point and try to punt or kick the ball before being tackled.
The other prescribed situations are interesting as well. The first tells us that the player touching the ball down in the opponent's goal could not allow a teammate to touch the ball before attempting the goal. By implication, only the player touching the ball down could attempt the goal. The same situation applied after a fair catch. Only the player making the fair catch could execute the following punt or kick lest a teammate get mobbed by charging opponents.
Clearly, the notion of specialist punters and kickers was not a part of early football, but neither was substituting, so this is yet another way the game changed over the years.
Click the appropriate link for previous stories in the series:
Intro | #1 Drop Kick | #2 Place Kick | #3 Punt | #4 Goal Posts | #5 Goal | #6 Goal ≠ Punt | #7 Scoring | #8 Dead Ball | #9 Touchdown | #10 Tackle | #11 Scrimmage | #12 Ball Handling | #13 Dead Ball | #14 Scrimmage Ball Handling | #15 Run In | #16 Goal Line | #17 Boundary Lines | #18 Crying “Down” | #19 Maul In | #20 Maul in Pax | #21 Touch-in Goal | #22 Onside | #23 Offside | #24 Return to Onside | #25 Defensive Offside | #26 Throwing Back | #27 Knocking On | #28 Fair Catch | #29 Punt-out | #30 Punt-On | #31 Into Touch | #32 Inbounding | #33 Pushed Into Touch | #34 Right Angle Throw Out | #35 No Fair Catch | #36 Kickoff | #37 Kickoff Timing | #38 Change Goals | #39 Toss Up | #40 Loser Kicks | #41 Kickout | #42 Kickout Procedure | #43 Fair Catch Free Kick | #44 Free Kick Location | #45 Own Goal Touch Down | #46 Try At Goal | #47 Try At Goal Spot | #48 Touched Down Between Posts | #49 Puntout Spot | #50 Heel-In Mark | #51 No Fair Catch OOB | #52 TD Interference | #53 Missed Kicks | #54: Charging
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