Here’s What The New NFL Kickoff Rule Means

NFL team owners approved new kickoff rules inspired by the XFL’s rulebook that will be implemented in the 2024 regular season.

On Tuesday, ESPN Senior NFL insider Adam Schefter wrote on X that during the league’s annual meeting, NFL owners voted to approve the rule with hope from the league that it will bring back the excitement of kickoffs while reducing the rate of concussions in the play.

In a followup post, Schefter included a video of what the new rule will look like, showing the way the special teams players will be lined up on both sides of the ball.

“The rule will put the ball on the 35-yard line for the kicking team, with 10 players on the kickoff team lined up at the receiving team’s 40-yard line,” a video from the NFL reported. It noted that a minimum of nine members of the receiving team will line up between the 30 and 35-yard lines, along with other details about the rule change.

“Up to two returners can line up in a ‘landing zone’ between the goal line and the 20-yard line, with the play beginning after the ball either is caught or hits the ground in the landing zone or is returned by a player in the endzone,” the NFL added.The Athletic broke it down further here, noting things like, “if the ball is kicked short of the landing zone or out of bounds, it will be placed on the 40-yard line.” And “if the ball is kicked into the landing zone, rolls into the end zone and gets downed by the kickoff team, it will placed at the 20-yard line.”

“No fair catches will be allowed,” ESPN noted. “In the event a team wants to attempt an onside kick, it will have to inform officials of its intent and would then be allowed to use the NFL’s traditional formation.” No onside kicks will be permitted until the fourth quarter and no surprise onside kicks will be allowed.

ESPN reported that the new rule “will move the majority of the kicking and return teams downfield to minimize high-speed collisions. It will go into effect for one year only in anticipation of possible tweaks over time.”

In 2023, the NFL had allowed a fair catch to be spotted at the 25-yard line after it had previously outlawed wedge and double-team blocks, and had moved the kickoff from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line, increasing the chances of touchbacks.

The result of these changes made the game less interesting with a dramatic increase of touchback rates and the return rate fell to a league record 22% in 2023, ESPN noted.

A full set of the rule change can be found here.

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