NFL owners voted Tuesday to adopt a revamped kickoff play for the 2018 season.
The changes will make kickoffs more like punts and limit full-speed collisions. The adjustments 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.
On Tuesday, owners also approved the ejection standards to go along with the “use of the helmet” rule. Per the new rule: it is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.
Some key takeaways for the new kickoff guidelines:
- Players on the kicking team cannot line up more than one yard from the point of the kickoff. The previous rule allowed 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
All disqualification of players are also now reviewable.