What Are Alligator Arms In Football?

It is a no-brainer that football is an entertaining sport and has its share of terms that fans of the sport should be knowledgeable of. A lot of them abound and in this article, we will be looking at the meaning of alligator arms in football.

The phrase ‘Alligator arms’ originates from the sport and refers to a player who deliberately avoids reaching out for a pass in order to avoid getting hit. 

It can be challenging for a receiver to catch the ball when it is thrown to them in the form of a risky pass. There are frequently severe repercussions associated with these passes which can also be referred to as hospital passes. 

Receivers frequently put themselves in harm’s way when they reach out to catch the ball because doing so puts them at risk. Therefore, receivers will frequently fail to make a genuine attempt on the ball to protect themselves from the force of these powerful blows to the head. 

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This is typically represented by the receiver reaching his arms out, but not far enough to catch the ball. This is the origin of the phrase Alligator Arms.

It is common knowledge that alligators have very short arms. This can be likened to that receivers due to their limited reach as they appear to have extremely short arms, commonly referred to as Alligator arms.

Two Plays That Result In Alligator Arms

It is a no-brainer that alligator arms won’t be seen in every game although certain routes taken can increase the possibility of encountering them during games. Alligator arms are the result of a defender from deep in the defensive backfield being able to make a run at an unprotected receiver. 

1. Routes That Have Safety Assistance 

When safety is assisting on a route, there is always the chance that they will take a significant hit. 

This is because safeties typically have a large cushion between themselves and the receiver and are frequently moving in the opposite direction when the hit is made. 


As a result, this results in safer plays for the offense. In these types of routes, it’s common for a cornerback to shadow the receiver for the entirety of his route. 

If the ball travels into the deeper part of the field, the safety will assist with over-the-top coverage to keep the ball out of the danger zone. 

It is mandatory for the safety to run toward the line of scrimmage in order to break up a pass that is made before the player reaches safety. 


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After sprinting in opposite directions, this significantly increases the likelihood of a collision between the receiver and the safety. Because of the frequency and severity of these hits, the National Football League enacted the defenseless receiver rule. 

To avoid getting hit by the safety, it is not unheard of for the receiver to alligator arm the incoming pass. Given how hard NFL safeties hit, the coach will not be happy with this, but it is completely understandable given the circumstances.


2. Middle-of-the-road Routes 

On routes that travel across the middle of the field or into the deep defensive backfield, alligator arms are most likely to occur. While traveling across the middle of the field, a wide receiver exposes himself to a large number of opposing defensive players. 

Safeties, linebackers, and corners on the opposing side are all in a position to make a tackle on a player who is coming through the middle of the field. 

Hits to the blindside are common when playing football because receiving a pass across the middle typically involves the receiver turning his head back to the quarterback. 


As a result of being able to see the players before they hit, the receiver will almost always be aware of a big hit coming his way on these plays. As soon as they turn their attention back to the ball, the defender will be in their blind spot. 

As the receiver reaches for the ball, he is completely unaware of the location of the defender who is trying to stop him. Because of this, alligator arms are a common consequence because the receiver is forced to step into a hit without any prior visual cues.

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I guess that your understanding of the term alligator arms in football has been enhanced by the content of this article. 

Some light has been thrown on what it entails as well as the scenarios that can result in the tactic being deployed. Do well to note that you may not see it in every football game that you watch.

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