In the NFL, is it intentional grounding if the ball hits a defensive player?

Intentional grounding is a penalty that is called in the NFL when a quarterback throws the ball away to avoid a sack or to prevent a loss of yards, without any eligible receiver in the vicinity. However, what happens if the ball hits a defensive player? Is it still considered intentional grounding?

The answer is no, it is not considered intentional grounding if the ball hits a defensive player. According to NFL rules, a pass is considered incomplete if it is thrown out of bounds or if it hits the ground before being caught by an eligible receiver. However, if the ball hits a defensive player, it is still considered a live ball and can be caught by any eligible receiver.

This means that if a quarterback throws the ball away to avoid a sack and the ball hits a defensive player, the play is still active and the quarterback is not penalized for intentional grounding. The only time a penalty would be called is if the quarterback throws the ball away with no eligible receiver in the vicinity and the ball hits the ground before being caught by an eligible receiver.

It is important to note, however, that if the ball hits a defensive player and is caught by an ineligible receiver, such as an offensive lineman, the play is considered illegal touching and a penalty is called.

There are some situations where a quarterback may intentionally throw the ball at a defensive player to avoid a sack or to stop the clock. In these cases, the quarterback is not penalized for intentional grounding as long as there is an eligible receiver in the vicinity. However, intentionally throwing the ball at a defensive player can still result in a penalty for unnecessary roughness if the hit is deemed excessive or dangerous.