In football, the act of touching the ball during a punt prior to possessing it.
A muffed punt is determined strictly on the basis of an “uncontrolled touch” at any time after the ball has been successfully kicked by the punter. A punt is only considered “muffed” based on one of three conditions: a member of the kicking team interferes with the receiving team’s opportunity to recover the punt, a member of the kicking team unintentionally makes contact with the ball while running downfield to cover the punt, or a receiving player attempts to return the ball and contacts it but does not secure it.
There is a distinction between a muffed punt and a fumble. The play only results in a fumble if the returning player possessed the ball prior to losing control of it. In a muffed punt, the returning player is determined never to have possessed the ball. Also, unlike in the case of a fumble, a muffed punt cannot be advanced once it is recovered. If the kicking team is ruled to have recovered a muff punt, the play cannot be challenged for review.