New NFL Kickoff Rules Coming? Insider Says It’s Being Finalized, Pending Owner Approval

Major changes for the NFL kickoff could be coming to not only improve safety but increase the excitement that has been missing in recent years.

Recent rule changes have left the NFL kickoff to be a play that many people see as inconsequential to outcomes every week. In 2023, just 22% of all kickoffs were returned.

After several attempts to change the play to make it safer, now there seems to be a growing group around league circles that is looking to bring back the excitement that a potential kickoff return could bring, while also keeping the play safe for everyone.

It seems that a couple of rule changes could be on their way to the 32 owners to vote.

NFL Competition Committee Offers Alternative Kickoff Options

Tom Pelissero, a lead analyst for NFL Network, stated Sunday afternoon that the league’s competition committee had discussed ways to improve the kickoff as a whole.

Pelissero reported that one potential option would be for teams to line up on the receiving team’s 40 and 35-yard lines, respectively, and not leave until the ball is touched or reaches the “target zone” (20-yard line to goal line). The popular idea is directly from the recently altered XFL, which allowed plenty of chances for big plays on kickoffs.

Additional rule changes could also be proposed for the onside kick, which would allow teams to attempt the play only when trailing in the fourth quarter. Pelissero reported that the team attempting the onside kick must announce the play beforehand as part of the potential change.

Only 5.2% of onside kicks were recovered in 2023 — a sign that the league’s ban of the “run-up” for kickoff teams helped the safety of the play, but also diminished the chance of surprise successful recoveries.

KEEP READING: Could the NFL Do Away With Kick Returns?

The recent proposals are the league’s competition committee’s attempt to try and bring excitement back into plays that have been seen as a waste in recent years. And it seems a perfect time to do so now that Devin Hester is to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2024.

A vote for the 32 owners to come together to approve recent rule change proposals for kickoffs could come at the NFL annual meeting on March 24.

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