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NFL homeowners approve large revamp to kickoff

McFarland: New kickoff rule a ‘win-win’ for the NFL (2:10) Bart Scott and Booger McFarland react to the NFL approving a new kickoff format intended to increase return rates and minimize high-speed collisions. (2:10) Kevin Seifert, ESPN Staff WriterMar 26, 2024, 09:22 AM ET Close Kevin Seifert is a staff writer who covers the Minnesota

NFL homeowners approve large revamp to kickoff

McFarland: New kickoff rule a ‘win-win’ for the NFL (2:10)

Bart Scott and Booger McFarland react to the NFL approving a brand new kickoff format supposed to extend return charges and decrease high-speed collisions. (2:10)

  • Kevin Seifert, ESPN Workers AuthorMar 26, 2024, 09:22 AM ET

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      Kevin Seifert is a workers author who covers the Minnesota Vikings and the NFL at ESPN. Kevin has coated the NFL for over 20 years, becoming a member of ESPN in 2008. He was beforehand a beat reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Washington Instances. He’s a graduate of the College of Virginia. You may comply with him by way of Twitter @SeifertESPN.

ORLANDO, Fla. — NFL homeowners authorized an enormous revamp of the kickoff play Tuesday, opting, after three days of discussions on the league’s annual assembly, for a format that originated within the XFL.

The proposal handed by a vote of 29-3, NFL competitors chairman Wealthy McKay mentioned Tuesday. A proposal wants approval by 24 of the 32 homeowners to move.

“We really feel this can be a nice day for the NFL,” New Orleans Saints particular groups coordinator Darren Rizzi, who labored carefully on the proposal, mentioned Tuesday. “We have taken a play that is primarily been dying over the course of the previous few years, in our opinion, and we revived it.”

The brand new alignment guidelines signify essentially the most important on-field rule change for the NFL in years and are designed to reverse greater than a decade of declining return charges whereas additionally decreasing concussion charges. In essence, the format will transfer nearly all of the kicking and return groups downfield to reduce high-speed collisions. It is going to go into impact for one yr solely in anticipation of attainable tweaks over time.

Throughout the 2024 season, kickers will proceed to kick from the 35-yard line, however the different 10 gamers on the kickoff group will line up on the receiving group’s 40-yard line. No less than 9 members of the return group will line up in a “setup zone” between the 35- and 30-yard strains. As much as two returners can line up in a “touchdown zone” between the aim line and the 20-yard line.

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Nobody apart from the kicker and returner(s) can transfer till the ball hits the bottom or hits a participant contained in the touchdown zone. Touchbacks will likely be marked on the 30-yard line, and no truthful catches will likely be allowed. Within the occasion a group needs to try an onside kick, it should inform officers of its intent and would then be allowed to make use of the NFL’s conventional formation. No shock onside kicks will likely be allowed.

“We’re within the enterprise of making an entertaining product and placing a product on the sector that ought to be aggressive in each second. And we had created a play that was not aggressive, and our [goal was] to attempt to discover a solution to make that play aggressive. And this was, in our opinion, our greatest possibility,” McKay mentioned. “Sure, it is a huge change, however the time has come to make that change.”

The proposal follows the construction and philosophy of the XFL model with a slight shift in the place the gamers are aligned. Within the XFL, they lined up farther downfield, between the returning group’s 30- and 35-yard strains. Greater than 90% of kickoffs had been returned throughout the XFL’s two seasons. NFL particular groups coaches who participated in designing the NFL model of this format are hoping for a return charge of no less than 80% in 2024.

The rationale for the change is evident. In its efforts to scale back concussions on kickoffs, the NFL over the previous 15 seasons has applied rule adjustments designed to scale back returns. It moved the kickoff from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line, outlawed wedge and double-team blocks, and in 2023 created a rule that allowed a good catch to be noticed on the 25-yard line.

Touchback charges dramatically elevated over that interval, and the return charge fell to a league-record 21.7% in 2023. The variety of concussions dropped as effectively, however solely in parallel with the lower in returns. The speed of concussions per kickoff, in accordance with league officers, has remained comparatively fixed.

“I feel it’ll [be a positive]. I say that with just a little little bit of hesitation. We’ll nonetheless should tinker with it,” commissioner Roger Goodell mentioned Tuesday. “We’ll reevaluate it because the season goes on. I feel it will likely be a giant enchancment. I feel it’ll convey it again to a related play, an thrilling play.”

Talking earlier than the vote, Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell mentioned he was in favor.

“You felt like that took a big quantity of performs out of the sport, and people had been from particular groups. And you do not make it up actually wherever else. And so, we put an emphasis on it. So, I imagine in it.”

On Monday, homeowners authorized three different rule adjustments:

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  • A prohibition of the swivel hip-drop deal with approach.

  • Permitting groups to obtain a 3rd problem after one profitable problem. Beforehand, groups had to achieve success on two challenges to obtain a 3rd. This proposal was submitted by the Lions.

  • If there’s a double foul throughout a down in which there’s a change or adjustments of possession, together with if one of many fouls is a post-possession foul by a group throughout a scrimmage kick, the group final gaining possession will maintain the ball after enforcement for its foul, supplied it didn’t foul earlier than final gaining possession.

ESPN’s Stephen Holder contributed to this story.

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