Gunner (American football)

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In American football, a gunner, also known as a shooter, flyer, headhunter, or kamikaze, is a player on kickoffs and punts who specializes in running down the sideline very quickly in an attempt to tackle the kick returner or the punt returner.[1] Gunners must have several techniques in order to break away or "shed" blockers, and have good agility in order to change their running direction quickly. Gunners on the punt team also must be able to block or catch.[2]

Gunners typically also play positions as defensive backs, cornerbacks, wide receivers, or running back when not on special teams, often as backups.

Gunner may also refer to the one or two players assigned to block the gunner of the punting team.

The NFL Pro Bowl features a "Special Teamer" position, along with a kicker, punter, and kick returner. This is often the gunner considered to be among the best. Steve Tasker, a 7-time Pro Bowler, is considered to be the top gunner in NFL history.[3]

Role[edit]

On punts there will be two offensive players on the punting team lined up close to the sideline.[1] These are called gunners. According to the NFL Rules Digest:[4]

During a kick from scrimmage, only the end men, as eligible receivers on the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap, are permitted to go beyond the line before the ball is kicked.

These two eligible receivers on the kicking team -- the gunners -- are allowed to start running down field as soon as the ball is snapped. The gunner's job is to try to get down the field as fast as the kicked ball and tackle whoever catches it.[5] In the best case, they get there just before the ball and make the other team afraid to try to catch it. When a team lines up to punt, the other team lines up in a defense that is designed to also receive a punt. There will be one player lined up about 40 yards back; he is the receiver, the player designated to catch the punt. There will also be a few players lined up on the gunners.[6] If the defense lines up two defenders on each gunner, then they are hoping to slow the gunners down, catch the punt, and try to run the punt back for a long gain or even a touchdown. If there is only one defender lined up on each gunner, then the receiving team has extra players rushing the punter, and they hope to block the punt. If no defenders are lined up on the gunners, the punting team may throw the ball to one of the gunners to pick up the first down.

References[edit]

Positions in American football and Canadian football
Offense Defense Special teams
Linemen Guard, Tackle, Center Linemen Tackle, End, Nose tackle Kicking players Placekicker, Punter, Kickoff specialist
Quarterback Linebackers Snapping Long snapper, Holder
Backs Halfback (Tailback), Fullback, H-back Backs Cornerback, Safety, Halfback Returning Punt returner, Kick returner
Receivers Wide receiver, Tight end, Slotback Nickelback, Dimeback Tackling Gunner
Formations (List)Nomenclature