A player can be penalized for tripping if he or she uses their lower body to obstruct another player on the opposing team. Both offenses and defenses can be penalized for tripping.
In the event that a team commits a tripping penalty, they will lose ten yards. If the tripping penalty is committed by the defense, they will receive an automatic first down.
SECTION 40 TRIPPING
Trips occur when a leg or foot is used to obstruct an opponent (including a runner).
NFL Rulebook 2021
This definition shows that tripping penalties can be called for both those with and without the ball.
Check out our guide to spearing if you want to learn about other football infractions.
The Illegality of Tripping
A tripping penalty is usually the result of an illegal block by the offensive team. Other illegal blocking penalties include leg whips and double teams.
Many offensive plays are made or broken by a few key blocks.
One way to salvage a block is to stick out your foot or leg in order to trip the defender before he reaches the ball carrier.
A trip is not an incredibly effective strategy, but every once in a while an offensive player can eliminate a defensive player from the game.
In most instances, it is defenders who are about to make a play who are fouled. Therefore, it is not allowed to trip defensive players.
As long as the ball carrier is not yet past the line of scrimmage when this foul occurs, the penalty yardage will be assessed from there.
The penalty yardage will be applied based on where the ball was when the penalty occurred if the ball carrier is past the line of scrimmage.
The Defense is Penalized for Tripping
The defense can also be penalized for tripping in football if they stick out their leg to trip the ball carrier.
It is generally committed by the defensive lineman when the running back is making his way through a hole.
When a defensive lineman is tied up and unable to make a tackle, he may stick his leg out in an attempt to trip up a defender.
It is illegal and almost always called by officials.
As soon as the defense commits this penalty, the offense gets an automatic first down and moves the ball forward ten yards.
In Football, Why is Tripping Illegal?
The main reasons that tripping is illegal in football are safety and fairness.
Bringing opponents to the ground by tripping them is not the safest course of action from a player safety perspective.
Both parties would be at risk if defenders stuck out their legs every time a ball carrier passed.
Due to constant contact with the ground, defensive players would certainly suffer knee and foot injuries. Ball carriers would also suffer violent trips that would send them to the ground violently.
As football is already a physically demanding game, having tripping as a legal action would only exacerbate the situation.
In football, tripping an opponent is also prohibited for fair play reasons.
Generally, tripping is used as a last-ditch effort when you fail to fulfill your responsibility.
Four defenders sticking out limbs to trip running backs would not make for entertaining television.
It is simply not football to stick out a limb into someone’s path to trip them up. You have to tackle or push them out of bounds to bring the other player down.