New Rule Changes for the NFL on the Way

Posted on by Brian Neese (BrianN)
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While the jury is out as to the NFL lockout, at least NFL fans can spend some time thinking about some key rules changes that were just made. If your team is either really strong or really weak in terms of special teams, you might be sad (hello Bears fans) - or happy - as touchbacks on kickoffs are expected to increase.

Kickoff Changes Implemented

A number of changes were made to the NFL's kickoff rules. According to the theory, these were placed to improve player safety, largely due to the high-speed collisions that can have adverse effects.

The first and major rule change is in regards to where the kickoff will take place. Instead of the 30-yard line, the NFL has moved it up five yards to the 35-yard line. This reverts back to the NFL rule the way it was from 1974-1993 - you can check out some historical stats regarding this.

Previously the return team was able to get a 10 to 15-yard head start - now, they will only get five yards. In regards to the major rule change, there has been some backlash, such as the following quotes by Cleveland Browns returner Josh Cribbs:

"NFL rule changes are BS... U not making the game safer u messing a great sport, trynna hide behind safety just to add 2 games...smh...This means it will be touchbacks all over the place...Essentially taking returners out of the game...injuries will still take place, then what move it up again, or eliminate it all together.."
From Devin Hester, the Bears returner/wide receiver:

"They're going too far. They're changing the whole fun of the game. Fans come out -- especially in Chicago -- to see returns. That's one of the key assets to the team. Fans [like] our big returns. You take that out of the game, not only do they kick it out of bounds when it's time to punt the ball, now you get the disadvantage on kickoffs. We felt we were guaranteed [a chance] on kickoff returns and now you're taking that away, it's like you're taking the whole return game out of the picture."

Yet, is this actually the case? While the five-yard difference is a big deal, the huge cut into the return team's running start may negate the effect. Arguably this may all work out just fine, but, as with all NFL rules changes, it seems, a trial-and-error approach may work best for this rule change.

Two other proposed rule changes on kickoffs were not accepted: the touchback will stay at the 20-yard line, instead of the proposed 25-yard line, and the two-man wedge will remain intact on kickoff returns.

Instant Replay

A small change was added in the realm of instant replay. Now, all scoring plays will be reviewed by the booth official. Note that this is not in regards to plays that do not result in a score, such as an incompletion that would have resulted in a touchdown. That challenge would need to come from a coach, or via the under two-minute rule.

Also proposed was a rule change to eliminate the third challenge from the coach; however, that was denied along with the proposed kickoff changes that also didn't get approved.

The instant replay rules are not a big deal, in my opinion, but the kickoff rule changes are all the rage, at least right now with fans being fed up by lockout "news." It is expected that touchbacks will increase by five to 15 percent; last season, 16 percent of kickoffs went for touchbacks. Teams with good returners are not fans of the changes, while others, perhaps, are not too unhappy.

Lastly, for any Boise State fans, the NFL reinforced its view that nothing other than grass-colored surfaces are to be used. Not really a big deal unless you were really crossing your fingers for a bright blue field next season.

Who has the advantage now?

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