NFL kickoffs will be undergoing these major rule changes for 2018
The NFL's 32 owners voted to make some major changes to the kickoff
The start of every NFL game is going to have a dramatic new look after the league's 32 owners approved several new kickoff rules this week.
The NFL has spent the past few months trying to figure out how to make the kickoff safer, which that were all voted on at the spring meeting in Atlanta on Tuesday. In all, the league passed seven new kickoff rules that will each take effect in 2018.
Here's a quick look at a few key rules that were passed (along with the former rule)
2017 Rule: Kickoff team must have at least four players on each side of the ball.
New rule: 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. But moving forward, it's illegal.
2017 rule: Kickoff team can set up five yards behind the line of scrimmage.
New rule: 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.)
2017 rule: Two-man wedge blocks permitted; can take place anywhere on the field.
New rule: No wedge blocks. Only players who were initially lined up in the setup zone may come together in a double-team block.
2017 rule: The ball is dead if it is downed in the end zone by the receiving team.
New rule: 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.
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.
The NFL is also implementing two other rules that will regulate where players are allowed to line up on kickoffs. If you're having a tough time picturing the new rules in your head, you're in luck, because the NFL has created a handy video that explains everything.
If the new kickoff rules don't do enough to cut down on injuries, it won't be surprising at all to see the NFL eventually do away with the play completely. Packers president Mark Murphy has already said the play is on a "short leash," which means the league won't have any problem axing it if they don't see the results they're hoping to see.
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