Lateral pass

A lateral during an option play.

In American football and Canadian football, a lateral pass or lateral (officially backward pass in American football and onside pass in Canadian football) occurs when the ball carrier throws the football to a teammate in a direction parallel to or away from the opponents' goal line. A lateral pass is distinguished from a forward pass, in which the ball is thrown forward, towards the opposition's end zone. In a lateral pass the ball is not advanced, but unlike a forward pass a lateral may be attempted from anywhere on the field by any player to any player at any time.

While the forward pass is an invention of the North American games, the lateral and backward pass is also a part of rugby union and rugby league, where such passes are the norm. Compared to its use in rugby, laterals and backward passes are less common in North American football, due to a much greater focus on ball control in American football strategy; they are most commonly used by the quarterback, after taking the snap, to quickly transfer ("pitch") the ball a short distance to a nearby running back (or, rarely, wide receiver) on a rushing play. Laterals are also often seen as part of a last-minute desperation strategy or as part of a trick play. Examples of plays utilizing the lateral pass are the toss, flea flicker, hook and lateral, and buck-lateral.

Rules

While a forward pass may only be thrown once per down by the team on offense from within or behind the neutral zone, there are no restrictions on the use of lateral passes; any player legally carrying the ball may throw a lateral pass from any position on the field at any time, any player may receive such a pass, and any number of lateral passes may be thrown on a single play.[1] Additionally, a player receiving a lateral pass may throw a forward pass if he is still behind the neutral zone, subject to the forward pass rules.[2] A lateral is the only type of pass that can be legally thrown following a change of possession during a play.

A pitch to a receiver

Unlike a forward pass, if a backward pass hits the ground or an official, play continues and, as with a fumble, a backward pass that has hit the ground may be recovered and advanced by either team.[1] Backward passes can also be intercepted. A lateral may be underhand or overhand as long as the ball is not advanced in the pass.

A ball that is passed exactly sideways is considered a backwards pass. If it hits the ground, the person throwing or "pitching" the lateral pass will be subjected to the fumble designation in the statistics in the NFL, even if the ball is dropped or muffed by a teammate, although in college football this can be credited to whichever player the statistician feels is most responsible.[3][4] If the ball hits the ground after travelling even slightly forward, however, it is then incomplete instead of a fumble.

The snap is legally considered to be a backward pass,[5] although a blown snap is not scored as a fumble.

Other Languages
Deutsch: Lateralpass
polski: Lateral pass