Why Quarterbacks Slide When They Run The Football

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: February 12, 2024

Quarterbacks are the most important players on a roster. Not only are they tasked with making split-second decisions, but they must also make smart decisions. Quarterbacks will do things like sliding, which is different from any other player on the field.

Quarterbacks slide to protect themselves from getting hit by a defensive player. When running in the open field, quarterbacks will slide to avoid contact and ultimately avoid injury.

In this article, we will show you why quarterbacks slide and how they stay healthy throughout the game.

Quarterbacks Slide To Avoid Contact

Quarterback doing a football slide

When watching an NFL game, it’s common to see an NFL quarterback run for 10-15 yards before sliding on the ground. Athletic quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray will use their athleticism to escape from defenders and break into the open field.

Once the quarterback has made it past the scrimmage line, players are moving at high speeds. Linebackers and defensive backs are typically running toward the quarterback at a high rate of speed.

To defend themselves against the linebackers and defensive backs, the quarterbacks will slide on the ground. This signals to the defensive player that the quarterback is conceding and ending the play. From here, defensive players must not hit the quarterback, or it will be a penalty.

It’s more common to see an NFL quarterback sliding on the ground than a college or high school quarterback.

NFL quarterbacks slide because they need to protect themselves for the long 16 game season. Also, teams are often paying their quarterbacks tens of millions of dollars. If they’re consistently getting hit, then there’s a higher chance of injury risk.

Players like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson rarely take a big hit because they are smart when they break into the open field. Almost immediately after a defender is nearby, they will slide on the ground.

Some may think the slide is cowardly, but it’s beneficial for a player’s health in the long term.

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Why Don’t Other Positions Slide?

Other positions, like wide receivers and running backs, are built to take on contact. Their bodies are often shorter and stalkier. Football players lift weights during the season and in the off-season to protect their bodies.

Lighting weights prepare the body for impact, which allows the person to protect themselves against high impact.

Running backs are taught to fight for every yard possible. This requires them to lower their shoulder and push forward as much as possible. Running backs don’t slide in the open field because they are built to move forward at a high rate of speed.

Also, running backs and wide receivers in the NFL are more expendable than quarterbacks.

Teams that are consistently winning games in the NFL are teams with great quarterbacks. Rarely do teams rely on a good running back to win football games. Quarterbacks control the pace and often the scoreboard in a football game.

This is also why quarterbacks are the highest-paid players on the team. They have the most responsibility and require the most talent in their position to make the offense move forward.

How Does Sliding Keep The Quarterback Safe?

When the quarterback slides into the open field, the ball is down exactly where the quarterback started his slide. The benefit of sliding is the quarterback won’t have to absorb any contact from the defensive player.

Sliding, however, prevents the offense from gaining any more yards. When a player runs full speed and lowers his shoulder, there’s a good chance he will pick up an additional 2-3 yards upon contact.

Coaches always favor the quarterback sliding because they will not take any unnecessary hits that they don’t need to take. Many coaches will sacrifice the 2-3 yards of extra contact to have their quarterback slide.

The sliding technique from a quarterback looks similar to that of a baseball slide. Running at full speed, they extend one leg out and keep the other behind. This feet-first technique will make the defensive player slow down or hit with a cleat.

Quarterbacks will slide on their butt and often pop back up and get ready for the next play. This play is clean, and no contact is made on either player.

If the defensive player happens to make contact with the sliding player, a penalty will be thrown. When the offensive player gives up their body by sliding, the defensive player must not touch them.

It’s common to see defensive players hit the quarterback sliding, mainly because it’s an instinct to tackle the ball carrier. Defensive players have no idea when the offensive player is going to slide. This is why you may see a defensive player hit a quarterback even though he is sliding. This results in a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.

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Learn more about the quarterback position by reading the articles below.

How To Play Quarterback In Football

Why Does The Quarterback Lift His Leg?

Quarterback Drops: 3,5,7 Step and Quick Game

Quarterback Communication Before The Ball Is Snapped

Quarterbacks will slide to protect their bodies. As soon as the quarterback starts to slide, the defensive player can not contact them, or it’s a penalty.

Offensive coaches will have their players slide to preserve their bodies for the long season. Constant contact will often cause injury. To prevent injuries, quarterbacks will take as least amount of hits as possible.

Running backs and other positions are built to take hits; that’s why they will never slide. Only quarterbacks, who are typically longer and have less muscle on their bodies, will slide to prevent a high-impact injury.

As more and more offensives rely on fast quarterbacks, it’s common to see quarterbacks break into the open field and slide on the ground. Quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray rely on their legs to make the plays that they do. If they injure their legs because of a big hit, it hurts their game as well as their team’s offensive game plan.

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Quarterbacks should protect themselves at all costs when in the open field.

About the author 

Chris Haddad

Chris Haddad is the founder of vIQtory Sports & high school coach for over 12+ years. He has been featured as an authority on Hudl, Bleacher Report and countless other football-centric platforms. Chris continues to study and provide valuable content for those looking to learn more about the game of football.