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- The NFL on Tuesday announced significant changes to the rules regarding kickoffs, designed to make the most dangerous play in football safer.
- Players’ starting positions on both sides will have new restrictions, and the coverage players on the kicking team will no longer be allowed to get a running start on the play.
- While the changes could make kickoffs significantly safer, there’s still a chance the play will soon be eliminated.
The NFL will introduce some changes to kickoffs this season in an attempt to make the most dangerous play in football a little bit safer.
While such dramatic rule changes would generally take a bit longer to come onto the books, the NFL decided to quickly implement them after seeing medical data earlier this year showing that concussions were five times as likely to happen on kickoffs than during other plays, according to ESPN.
The rule changes are mostly designed to lower the number of high-speed collisions that can take place during a kickoff.
Here’s a brief breakdown of the most significant changes football fans might notice:
- Players on the kicking team will no longer be allowed to get a running start.
- Eight of the 11 players on the receiving team must start the kickoff in the “setup zone,” 10 to 15 yards from the kicking tee, meaning only three players can be back deep to receive the kick.
- Players in the “setup zone” may not block until after the ball has touched the ground or has been caught.
- Players are no longer allowed to link up in blocking wedges.
- The kicking team must spread its players across the field evenly, with five men lined up on either side of the ball.
The NFL released a helpful video to show how these rules might work in practice:
While the adoption of these new rules could go a long way in making the game safer, there’s still a chance that the elimination of the kickoff is nearing.
Even if the rule changes significantly lower the injury risk involved in kickoffs, the play will still almost undoubtedly be the most dangerous in the sport. Potential alternatives have slowly gotten more buzz, such as replacing the kickoff with a fourth-down situation, encouraging teams to punt – a much safer way of transferring possession.
The league plans to review how the new rules affect player safety. Depending on how things develop, more changes – even the elimination of the kickoff altogether – could be on the table for next year.