LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The NFL has adapted a modified version of the XFL Kickoff Rule for the 2024 season that intends to bring the kickoff back to the game of football. While the league will be eliminating the traditional kickoff, the modified kickoff is designed to put the ball back in the returner's hands. 

The XFL had 341 kickoff returns in 2023 with their kickoff rules while the NFL had 587. The XFL played just 40 regular season games to the NFL's 272, as the XFL averaged 8.5 while the NFL averaged 2.2. 

Simply put, the kickoff is coming back. 

"We have a player going to the Hall of Fame as a kick returner, so it's pretty ironic this happens to be that year this play is coming back," New Orleans Saints special teams coach Darren Rizzi said at the NFL Annual Meetings Tuesday. "We look at the modifications we made with this hybrid kickoff and we'll see some drastic differences."

My colleague, John Breech, wrote a detailed breakdown of the new rule, including the alignment and touchback rule and you can find that here

Here's what to expect with the new kickoff rule:

The strategy

The new kickoff rule is going to make the bottom of the roster prevalent for special teams, making roster spots 48 to 53 crucial. Teams using a 4-3 or 3-4 defense will play a role in how their special teams are constructed. 

"When you watch the XFL, there are different kinds of body types out there," Rizzi said. "I don't know how much the body types are going to change, some teams may choose to go a little bit bigger and soem teams may choose to go a little bit faster. 

"I think that will be kind of the exciting part of the play, to see teams play it out. Teams will play with it in the preseason to see what their best options are. It also makes it exciting for guys at the bottom of the roster, those spots are going to become a lot more valuable for guys fighting for those core positions. Roster configuration is going to be a big part in this." 

Will there be more returns?

Simply put, yes. The XFL with their kickoff had a 97% return rate compared to the NFL's 22% last season with the traditional kickoff. Even if the NFL's modified kickoff rules, the return percentage will be significantly higher this season compared to last.

What about the return average? 

The return average in the NFL was 23.0 last season while the XFL was 21.3. The NFL had four kickoff return touchdowns compared to the XFL's one. Of course, the kickoff team was on their 35 and the return team could line up on the opponent's 45. 

With just the kicker on the 35, the return yard average will decrease, but the returns go significantly up.

What is the Landing Zone?

The Landing Zone is the area between the receiving team's goal line and its 20-yard line. Any kick short of the Landing Zone will result in the receiving team having the ball placed at their own 40-yard line. 

Any kick in the Landing Zone must be returned. Any kick that hits in the landing zone and then goes into the end zone, must be returned or downed by the receiving team. If the play is down, touchback to the 20-yard line. 

The touchback rule 

If a kick hits in the end zone and stays inbounds, it can be either returned or downed. If downed then touchback to the 30-yard line. Any kick that goes out of the back of the end zone (in the air or bounces), results in a touchback to the 30-yard line.

"This is one year only," said Atlanta Falcons CEO and Competition Committee Chairman Rich McKay. "We'll be able to tweak it so maybe the touchback returns to the 35. This will definitely reduce the return number, so something we thought could be as high as 85-90% will be around 50-60%. That's okay with us. 

"The extra five yards, if you kick the touchback, is good for offense. That's the starting point. If it works the way we think it will, could it go to 35? Sure."