Although size, power, and speed are desirable in players, the game’s fundamental skills can be learned and perfected only by practice. Many a slower or smaller player becomes outstanding by mastering blocking, tackling, kicking, running, passing, or receiving.
In tackling, a defensive player’s body and arms are used to bring a ballcarrier to the ground or stop the carrier’s forward progress. In a tackle from the front, the tackler hits the opponent with the shoulder a few inches above the opponent’s knees, at the same time wrapping both arms around and lifting the opponent, and then driving the opponent to the ground. Many times the tackle is made from the side or by grabbing a ballcarrier by the arm or the leg as the carrier races by. Sometimes it takes more than one tackler to stop a powerful ballcarrier. If so, the effective way to bring the carrier down or stop the carrier’s forward progress is for one tackler to hit the player high and the other, low.
Running with the Ball.
In running with the ball the prime consideration is to gain yardage and to avoid fumbling or having the ball stolen. The ballcarrier protects the ball by placing the palm of the hand around the front part of the ball and tucking it against his side, his elbow firmly placed against it. The ball should be carried in the arm away from a potential tackler whenever possible, freeing the other arm for warding off (straight-arming) tacklers. Runners follow the paths opened up by their blockers, shifting directions quickly, changing pace, and forcing their way past opponents to gain yardage.
Passing, or throwing, the ball is one of football’s more difficult skills. The quarterback throws nearly all of the passes in standard offensive systems. Occasionally a halfback or fullback throws a pass, after first feinting a running play; generally, such a pass is thrown on the run. In rare instances an end, dropping into the backfield, will throw.
To be legal, a pass must be thrown from behind the line of scrimmage. The passer grips the ball with four fingers across the laces; the thumb is spread. With the elbow out in front and the ball held behind the ear, the passer releases the ball with a quick snap of the wrist. The ball must spiral, rather than proceed end over end, in order to move swiftly through the air and be easy to catch. The short pass is often thrown by quarterbacks on the run. For a long pass the passer must rear back and bring one foot forward, making certain to follow through with the body after releasing the ball.
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