Football 101: Positions on Special Teams

Football team runs
Carrie Kauffman/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Understanding the different positions is key to understanding the game of football. The following definitions cover the positions on special teams.


The members of the special teams who specialize in racing downfield to tackle the kick or punt returner. The gunners usually line up on the outside of the offensive line and are often double teamed by blockers.


The player who catches the snap from the center and places it down for the placekicker to attempt to kick it through the uprights of the goalpost. On an attempted field goal, the holder must catch the ball and put it into a good kicking position, ideally with the laces facing away from the kicker.

Kick Returner

A kick returner is the player that catches kickoffs and attempts to return them in the opposite direction. He is usually one of the faster players on the team, often a reserve wide receiver.

Long Snapper

The center position as it would be played on offense, but this player specializes in making longer snaps for punts and field goal attempts. A long-snapper generally has to snap the ball seven-to-eight yards behind him for field goal attempts and 13 to 15 yards for punts with the accuracy that allows the holder or punter to handle the ball cleanly.


The player who kicks the ball on kickoffs, extra point attempts, and field goal attempts. A placekicker either kicks the ball while it's being held by a teammate or kicks it off a tee.


The player who stands behind the line of scrimmage, catches the long snap from the center and then kicks the ball after dropping it toward his foot. The punter generally comes in on fourth down to punt the ball to the other team with the idea of driving the other team as far back as possible before they take possession of the ball.

Punt Returner

The job of a punt returner is to catch the ball after it has been punted and run it back toward the punting team's end zone.