NFL owners approves new kickoff rule

Written by: Miles Jordan

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NFL owners approves new kickoff rule

In another significant rule change in the NFL, owners voted Tuesday morning to implement a new kickoff format, which will begin in the 2024-2025 season for a one-year trial period.

For the new kickoffs, the kicking team will place and kick the ball from their own 35-yard line, with the remaining ten players of their kickoff team lined up on the opposing team’s 40-yard line. The receiving team will be lined up just five yards away from the kicking team's 40-yard line, on their own 35-yard line, with their returner behind them. Regardless of kicking or receiving, all players lined up on the 40 and 35-yard line will not be allowed to move until the returner has possessed the ball. This hopes to prevent players from barreling full speed at each other and limit unnecessary injuries on kickoff plays.

The kick will have to land in a designated landing zone between the 20-yard line and the goal line. A kick that lands short of the 20-yard line or out of bounds will automatically grant the receiving team the ball at the 40-yard line. If the kick results in a touchback, the receiving team will be awarded the ball at the 30-yard line.

NFL owners were inspired by the XFL, who currently use this kickoff format, and have seen a rise in returns and a decrease in injuries. However, one significant change will be the onside kick. With this new format, surprise onside kicks will be virtually impossible since the remainder of the kicking team will be lined up 25 yards in front of the kicker. This means when a team chooses to do an onside kick, they must announce it to the referees, allowing the other team to prepare for the shorter kick.

Should this new rule grant the results owners hope for, such as fewer injuries on kickoff returns, owners can either re-approve the new rule or return to the previous kickoff format in 2025.