Here are the new kickoff rules NFL owners will be voting on at the spring meeting
The NFL owners will be voting on a lot of stuff at the spring league meeting
The NFL's 32 owners are going to be pretty busy next week when they get together in Atlanta for their annual spring league meeting (May 22-23), and that's because the group is going to have quite a few things to vote on.
First and foremost, the owners will be voting on several rule changes that will affect the kickoff. The kickoff as you currently know it will be going away if all the proposals are passed.
Here's a look at the proposed rules along with the current rule (via the NFL):
Current rule: Kickoff team must have at least four players on each side of the ball.
Proposed change: Kickoff team must have five players on each side of the ball. This rule will likely have its biggest impact on onside kicks, because teams like to line up six players on one side and four players on the other, as you can see below. Under the current rule, that's legal. However, if the new rule passes, it would be illegal.
Current rule: Kickoff team can set up five yards behind the line of scrimmage
Proposed change: Kickoff team cannot line up for more than one yard from the line of scrimmage (This eliminates running starts and means players would have to line up at the 34-yard line for a kickoff from the 35. Currently, players can go back to the 30)
Current rule: The ball is dead if it is downed in the end zone by the receiving team.
Proposed change: The ball is dead for a touchback if it touches the ground in the end zone, even if hasn't been touched by the receiving team. The returner doesn't have to down the ball in the end zone to get the touchback.
The rule above means that a touchdown the Jets scored against the Bills incounted.
In the play above, Bills returner Mike Gillislee decided to let the ball roll into the end zone, where the Jets recovered it for a touchdown. Under the proposed rule, since Gillislee didn't touch the ball, the ball would have been dead for a touchback as soon as it hit the goal line.
Let's keep going.
Current rule: Players on the receiving team can move beyond their restraining line and block players on the kicking team after the ball is kicked.
Proposed change: No player on the receiving team may cross its restraining line until the ball is touched or hits the ground. The receiving team also cannot initiate a block against the receiving team in the 15-yard area from the kicking team's restraining line.
Current rule: Two-man wedge blocks permitted; can take place anywhere on the field
Proposed change: No wedge blocks. Only players who were initially lined up in the setup zone may come together in a double-team block
Here's a closer look at each rule from the NFL.
Basically, the NFL is looking to make the kickoff safer by eliminating wedge blocks, eliminating running starts and making it harder for a player to make a cheap shot. Speaking of cheap shots, that's another rule that will be discussed. If a player gets ejected for targeting -- or any other reason -- there's a good chance the ejection will be reviewed starting this year. One of the rules being voted by owners would make all ejections subject to replay review.
Of course, the kickoff rules and ejection replay won't be the only two things on the docket next week. The owners will also be voting on the location for the next two drafts.
The five finalists to host the event in either 2019 or 2020 have, with Nashville, Denver, Las Vegas, Cleveland/Canton, and Kansas City still in the running. Nashville to land the draft in 2019, which means the other four cities will likely be competing for 2020.
The owners will also use the meeting to approve David Tepper as the new owner of the Panthers, which should just be a formality. Tepper needs to be approved by 24 of the league's 32 owners. Another topic of discussion will be a possible league-wide policy for players in regards to the national anthem. Although the topic was discussed in March, owners decided not institute any rules that would require a player to stand.
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