A penalty called when a defensive player makes significant contact with a kicker or punter who has just made a kick attempt. No contact is allowed with a kicker unless the kick has been tipped or blocked by the defense. The offense is awarded fifteen yards and an automatic first down.
Roughing the Kicker is a relatively rare penalty because it is so punishing to the defense to give up a first down, particularly since most kicking plays occur on fourth down. Typically, a roughing the kicker penalty will occur when the defensive team makes an aggressive attempt to block the kick. It is a high-risk, high reward play in that if the kick is blocked it dramatically alters the flow of the game in favor of the defensive team, while a roughing the kicker penalty gives a huge boost to the offense. Roughing the kicker is no longer valid once the ball is touched by any player other than the kicker or holder, or once the kicking player has made a motion other than kicking, such as attempting a pass or running with the ball.