*In this feature, Football 101, NFL officials help explain and clarify some of the rules that impact the game. This week, back judge Tony Michalek explains the space that kick returners given on fair catches:
Summary From The Official NFL Rule Book - Rule 10, Section 1, Article 1 & Rule 10, Section 2, Article 1
Rule 10, Section 1, Article 1
During a scrimmage kick that crosses the line of scrimmage, or during a free kick, members of the kicking team are prohibited from interfering with any receiver making an attempt to catch the airborne kick, or from obstructing or hindering his path to the airborne kick, and regardless of whether any signal was given.
Rule 10, Section 2, Article 1
A Fair Catch is an unhindered catch of an airborne scrimmage kick that has crossed the line of scrimmage, or of an airborne free kick, by a player of the receiving team who has given a valid fair catch signal.
The Official Point Of View
"There's no space, not like college," Michalek explained. "I don't know if college has that anymore, but there's no halo or donut.
"All he gets is an unmolested opportunity to catch the ball. There can't be any contact with him, obviously, before he catches it, and the coverage team can't interfere with the ball, or the man's path to the ball."
Last week, back judge Tony Michalek explained when offensive players are allowed to use the crown of their helmet.