There are two types of safeties in the NFL: safety the player, and safety the play. Today we’re going to define both and make the subject a little clearer than mud.
Safety the player is a defensive back, which means his main priority is defending against long passing plays. Safeties come in two varieties: free safety and strong safety. Usually, free safeties are the smaller and faster of the two; they defend the deep middle of the field. Strong safeties, as per their namesake, play on the strong side of the field – the same side as the tight end. They are usually larger and stronger, and often play closer to the line of scrimmage in order to tackle tight ends and running backs on running plays.
Here’s a visual to bring that all together:
Safety the play is a defensive score worth 2 points. A safety is awarded under several circumstances:
1. When an offensive player is tackled with the ball in his own end zone. This usually happens when a team is pinned all the way back to their own 1-yard line and has to line up in the end zone. If the quarterback drops back to throw and is tackled before he has a chance to get rid of the ball, it’s a safety.
2. When an offensive player who has the ball is forced out of bounds in his own end zone. This is called a “safety touch” but is still considered a safety and still results in 2 points being given to the defense.
Safety vs. safety. Player vs. play. Makes sense, right?