A penalty assessed when a player makes significant contact with an opposing player after the play has ended. While there is a small margin for error, the players are expected to do everything possible to avoid contact after the play. Late hits fall under the category of unnecessary roughness penalties, and are assessed fifteen yards from the end of the play.
The two major forms of late hits are out of bounds, when a player is hit well after they have crossed the white barrier on the sideline, and after the play, when the referee has blown the whistle and a player makes contact with another player well afterwards. Late hits are considered judgment calls, and often depend on the amount of contact and distance from the sideline where they occur. On late hits in the field of play, it usually depends on the time after the whistle where the contact occurs. Late hits are costly penalties due to the fifteen yard penalty assessed from the end of the play, and in the case of a defensive late hit, an automatic first down.