Several rule changes aimed at making kickoffs safer for players will be presented to NFL team owners at next week’s Spring League Meeting in Atlanta.
According to NFL.com, the proposals were made in conjunction with special teams coaches and members of the league’s Competition Committee during a player safety summit at the league’s headquarters in New York earlier this month. The changes, which will need the approval of 24 of the NFL’s 32 team owners before being confirmed for the 2018 season, seeks to limit full-speed collisions by making kickoffs more like punts.
Some key components of the proposals include:
1. Players on the kicking team cannot line up more than one yard from the point of the kickoff. The current rule allows players to line up five yards from the restraining line (typically 35-yard line), allowing them to have more of a running start before the kick.
2. The wedge block has been eliminated. Only players who line up in the setup zone (between their own 40 and opponents’ 45-yard line) can put together double-team blocks.
3. Until the ball is touched or hits the ground, no player on the receiving team may cross the restraining line (typically its 45) or initiate a block. This forces blockers on the receiving team to run back and block, which greatly decreases the chance of an “attack” block that can result in a high-speed collision.
4. When the ball hits the end zone, it’s immediately ruled a touchback. There is no need for a player to down the ball in the end zone to initiate a touchback.
The NFL Network’s Ian Rappaport says the proposals could make kickoffs more exciting because they place limits on blocking schemes.