What is the newly proposed NFL kickoff rules change? Everything you need to know

Each NFL season brings new challenges, innovations, and controversies that necessitate adjustments. Teams and coaches constantly seek loopholes in the rules, prompting the league to refine regulations.

The NFL’s rulebook serves as a dynamic framework, constantly subject to revisions to maintain the integrity and competitiveness of the sport. The league sometimes changes its rules to adapt to evolving strategies, player safety, fan engagement, and officiating consistency. Another change might be on the way as new NFL kickoff rules are proposed by several parties.

What are the new rules for NFL kickoffs?

The NFL is once again reshaping its kickoff rules, and teams could face significant alterations in their approach to kickoffs. One of the most notable adjustments to the NFL kickoff rules would restrict onside kick attempts to the fourth quarter and only when a team is trailing, via CBS Sports. This change aims to maintain the integrity of the game while still providing opportunities for thrilling comebacks in crucial moments.

Besides that, a new setup zone is being proposed, inspired by the XFL in 2023. Both the kicking and return teams would line up closer to each other, increasing the potential for intense and strategic gameplay. However, neither team would be allowed to initiate movement until the ball reaches the designated “target zone” between the 20-yard line and the goal line.

One proposed change with potentially big implications is the tweak to touchback rules. Instead of the customary 25-yard line, teams receiving a kickoff that lands in the end zone would start at the 35-yard line.

However, if the kicker manages to boot it within a designated “target zone” and it still rolls into the end zone, the receiving team would get the ball at the 20-yard line. This change adds a new layer of intrigue to the often-overlooked kickoff, as the potential 15-yard swing in field position could significantly alter the course of the game.

NFL special teams coordinators met to discuss new rule change

Special teams coordinators met at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine to deliberate on a groundbreaking rule change aimed at revitalizing kickoffs. The new NFL kickoff rules seek to strike a delicate balance between increasing return rates and maintaining an acceptable level of player safety.

The 2023 season saw the NFL experiment with a rule change designed to spark more excitement in the kicking game. This temporary modification permitted returners to fair catch any kick inside their own 25-yard line, aiming to incentivize returns and decrease touchbacks.

Unfortunately, the impact fell short of expectations. Throughout the season, a meager 22% of kickoffs were returned, and in Super Bowl LVIII, a staggering 100% of kicks resulted in touchbacks, highlighting the rule’s ineffectiveness in generating the desired outcome.

Previous revisions to kickoff rules, such as the elimination of double-team blocks and restrictions on cover men’s running starts in 2018, had only marginal effects on concussion rates. However, the proposed changes for the 2024 season aim to yield more significant outcomes in terms of player safety.

The envisioned rule change aims to create a delicate balance, rekindling the excitement of kickoffs while mitigating the risks associated with high-speed collisions. By eliminating certain elements that contribute to injury potential without sacrificing the essence of the kickoff game, the NFL hopes to incentivize teams to opt for kickoff returns more frequently.


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Maliha is an insightful sports writer with over a year of experience focusing on the NFL. Initially venturing into both NFL and NBA coverage, her journey began without a particular affinity for American football. However, her passion for the sport blossomed as she started following football more. Now, a huge NFL fan, Maliha meticulously follows every development within the league. She always wants to ensure her analysis is comprehensive and up-to-date to fellow readers.


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