NFL camps open this week. The league published its 2018 rulebook June 28. And yet the league apparently still isn’t done tinkering with its kickoff rule.
According to a report Monday night by ESPN, an NFL spokesperson said the league is still considering “minor” changes to the rule, which is already a change from last season. Per the report, the league would have to recall the current rulebook and republish a revised edition should a change be made at this point.
“The NFL officiating and football operations staff, with competition committee approval, may make some minor tweaks to the language to further clarify the rule. If so, that information would be circulated to all clubs and the rule book updated accordingly,” league spokesman Michael Signora told ESPN.
Last week, retired referee and new NBC Sports rules analyst Terry McAulay said the new kickoff rule “may be the biggest change I’ve ever seen. ... There are so many restrictions on what either side of the ball can do. I know we all feel it can be great for the game. But have to wait and see. There are a lot of intricate rules in terms of what can and cannot do.”
Kickoff rules were changed out of concern for player safety, especially concussions. In an effort to lower the number of high-impact collisions on kickoffs, the league outlawed running starts by the kicking team, mandated where players on the return team may line up, and eliminated wedge blocks — where players on the return team run together to form a V-shaped wall of blockers.
It is that last rule that reportedly has officials concerned. In essence, the elimination of wedge blocks but not double-teams means an official would need to know where a player lined up before the kickoff in order to know if a penalty occurred.
The new rule reportedly reads: “After the ball is kicked, a double-team block is permissible only by players who were initially lined up in the setup zone. A double-team block is defined as two players from the setup zone coming together in an attempt to block for the runner.”
At the NFL’s annual officiating clinic last weekend at Plano, Texas, competition committee chairman Rich McKay heard concerns from multiple participants about the rule, according to the ESPN report.
The ESPN report states “the timing of the next round of changes is unclear. Referees and other game officials will circulate through training camps this summer to better understand how teams plan to implement the new rule.”
—Field Level Media