There will always be rule changes in the NFL. Some to save time and, in this case, for health and safety. I want to go over the new rules with you, while explaining the differences from past years.
The new season is around the corner and the preseason is in full effect. You may have noticed, the NFL kickoff rules have been changed. The rules laid out by the NFL Competition Committee have tried to make the sport safer. These changes are in full effect on the field, and they won’t be the last. Packers’ President Mark Murphy, the head of the NFL Safety Committee, was quoted by Sports Illustrated earlier this year saying, “If you don’t make changes to make it safer, we’re going to do away with it”. Well, the changes are here, and this is what they look like.
No running starts
In the beginning, special teams players on the kicking team have been able to line up on the 30-yard line to get a running head start. However, they could not cross the 35-yard line. Now, players are forced to stay out at their own 34-yard line and can run when the ball is kicked. Hopefully this will control the speed to decrease concussions or vicious nature hits that have been delivered.
Setup zone for most of the return team now
Players used to be able to set up pretty much anywhere, as long as they were at least ten yards from the kicking team. Now, they have select places where they are allowed to begin the play. Eight of the 11 players on the receiving team will have to line up in a 15 yard area very close to the midfield range. This way, the blockers must run down the field with the coverage unit. Think about a punt formation rather than a kickoff. Again, the idea here is safety.
Wedge blocking elimination
In years past, two players were able to get out in front of a kick returner and form what is called a wedge blocking system. This will also be eliminated to protect players from high speed collisions and injuries.
No blocks in the first 15 yards
In simple terms, this eliminated any engagement by the cover unit until they reach midfield. Again, this should take away major concussion issues and generate less huge blindside hits, protecting the players. It should take time off of games due to less frequent injury timeouts keeping both teams safer.
If the ball touches the ground in, or anywhere near the end zone, there is no longer a need for the player to run to grab it. This means even if the ball is let go and even rolls towards the end zone, it’s all a touch back and will be places on the 25-yard line. Now, the player will not have to kneel and once again this should take away huge collisions that take players off the field sometimes for good.
Ultimately all these changes will in fact make the game safer. Something NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell has made his mission since taking over the demanding job. Keep a close eye out as this will be discussed quite a bit as the season progresses.