In an effort to improve safety, the NFL announced on Tuesday a handful of approved changes to kickoffs following a vote at the spring league meetings on Tuesday.
The rule changes will be re-evaluated next offseason.
The changes, designed to limit full-speed collisions, are summarized as follows:
—Players on the kickoff team will line up five on each side and must be within 1 yard of the point of kickoff to prevent getting a running start downfield after the kick.
—At least eight players on the returning team must be aligned in a 15-yard “setup zone” prior to the kickoff so more players are closer to where the ball is kicked in order to reduce speed.
—Two-man wedge blocks have been eliminated, along with “jump-set/attack” blocks.
—There is no requirement for the kickoff returner to down the ball in the end zone. Instead, it will be an automatic touchback.
The NFL owners also expanded reviewable plays to include disqualification of players and approved ejection standards to go along with the “use of the helmet” rule. According to the new rule, ejection is possible if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent, provided the contact is clearly avoidable.
—Field Level Media