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The NFL passed new kickoff rules for 2018. Here’s what they are and what they mean

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The NFL passed new kickoff rules for 2018. Here’s what they are and what they mean

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Kickoffs are safer now, but may also be more exciting too.

Kickoffs will look a little different in 2018 after the NFL passed a new set of rules that aims to make the play safer. A bonus is it may make kickoff returns more exciting, too.

The overhaul comes in several facets, as tweeted by the league a week before the owner meeting that officially approved the changes:

The league announced the changes Tuesday and said it would revisit them after the 2018 season:

The main goal of the rule changes is to limit the amount of full speed collisions that have made kickoffs the most dangerous play in football.

“If you don’t make changes to make it safer, we’re going to do away with it,” Packers president Mark Murphy told Sports Illustrated in March. “It’s that serious. It’s by far the most dangerous play in the game.”

The changes should significantly decrease the likelihood of an injury.

What’s different about the kickoffs now?

No running starts

Under the old rules, players could start at the 30-yard line and get a running start, so long as they didn’t cross the 35-yard line before the kick. The new rule will force players to wait at the 34-yard line.

The goal is to slow down the coverage unit a bit and reduce the speed of collisions with blockers.

Most of the return team is confined to a “setup zone”

Eight of the return team’s 11 players will now begin a kickoff in a 15-yard zone near midfield. Previously, blockers were allowed to start anywhere, so long as they were behind their “restraining line”, which was 10 yards from the kicking team.

This will force blockers to run down the field with the coverage team, making blocking similar to that of a punt.

No wedge blocks

With eight players in the “setup zone”, that leaves two blockers and a returner near the goal line. Those two players cannot team up to both block the same player. Wedges have been gradually phased out of the NFL, with the rule dwindling down to just two-player wedges in 2009. They have now been removed altogether.

No blocking in the first 15 yards

This new rule will force the return team blockers to wait until the coverage unit has crossed midfield before engaging. This solves two things:

  1. The biggest danger of a huge collision would come if a player on the coverage team manages to get through the first wave of the return team unblocked. That’d be more likely if they were able to make a blocker whiff right away. Imagine it like a gunner on a punt team who gets a free release. By forcing blockers to wait, they’ll have a better chance of at least slowing the coverage team down.
  2. It takes away what the NFL calls the “jump-set/attack” block. The coverage team can’t be blindsided by blockers when they know exactly where the blocking will begin.

Ultimately, this protects both sides.

No need to kneel

If a ball gets to the end zone and touches the ground, it’s an automatic touchback. There’s no need for a player to pick it up and kneel, or even catch a ball if it’s headed for the end zone and they don’t intend to return it.

This is a small time saver, but the goal is to blow a play dead earlier so that unnecessary collisions don’t happen. Under the previous rules, a player could take their time gathering a ball and kneeling while the coverage team and return team blockers still careened toward each other for no reason.

Why is this rule change better?

The reason kickoffs were the most dangerous play in football is that it essentially boiled down to two teams of players running full speed at each other.

In the case of punt returns, the majority of players on the field begin close to the line of scrimmage. That didn’t make the play any less exciting, but decreased the speed of the collisions on the field.

If anything, punt returns have historically been more exciting than kickoff returns. I’ll let Jon Bois explain:

The impact of the change may take years to figure out.

“I think these changes are probably going to be for the better,” Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri said onThe Rich Eisen Show, via Pro Football Talk. “It’s really going to be interesting how special teams coaches try to find a way gain an advantage. Are they going to kick it short and make teams return it or are they going to go ahead and try to kick it deep to get a touchback?”

But with coverage teams given less of a free run down the field, the bonus of a rule that intends to increase player safety is that it may also increase kickoff return touchdowns. That’d make the change a win-win for players and fans, alike.

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These games are going to get long and tedious.

.....  Gonna need to get a sleeping bag and camp out to see the end of the 4th quarter.

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33 minutes ago, xardoz said:

These games are going to get long and tedious.

.....  Gonna need to get a sleeping bag and camp out to see the end of the 4th quarter.

Time to switch from beer to liquor 👍🏻

bigbrod81, louisb and Bonckers like this

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Say farewell to the three-point stance

At a time when football fans finally are waking up to the demise of the kickoff, another football staple is about the go the way of the Stegosaurus. And a game that many regard as a dinosaur could soon be extinct, at least as we know it.

With the NFL finally admitting what some suspected for the past two months — the new helmet rule does apply to offensive and defensive linemen — the three-point stance inevitably will be gone. And the NFL will have gotten rid of it without actually getting rid of it.

That may be news to some of the people on the inside. Saints coach Sean Payton, a member of the Competition Committee, said recently on PFT Live that the three-point stance won’t be going away “in our lifetime.” But as coaches like Payton adjust to the interpretation that finally was unveiled on Tuesday, they’ll realize that the three-point stance has become an invitation to violate the new helmet rule.

He’s got to get his head up,” NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron said Tuesday regarding offensive linemen.

The only way to keep his head up is to never put it down. The three-point stance comes from the ability to fire out and slam into the opponent. With linemen in such close quarters, it will be impossible for an offensive lineman to blast forward into a defensive lineman without potentially hitting the opponent with a helmet that necessarily is low.

Again, this likely surprised people like Payton. When I asked him earlier this month whether the new helmer rule will alter the between-the-tackles running game, Payton said, “I don’t think a lot. I think you know working a coach up, guys that are pulling. But I don’t think it’s going to change much at all.”

With offensive linemen now obligated to get their heads up when blasting forward at the same, it’s going to change a lot. It’s going to change to the point where it’s not recognizable.

And it’s going to open the door for someone to start a football league that will play games not in the spring but during football season — and that will play football not like the NFL is hell bent on playing it but like football used to be played.

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With all these retarded changes to the game,if ole Vince gets his xfl playing the game that we have come to love he just might hit pay dirt. The NFL and NASCAR are both dying a slow death.

Bonckers likes this

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You can trace both back to one specific thing....NASCAR began to decline right after Dale Earnhardt was killed on the track.....NFL began it's decline as soon as Goodhell stepped into the picture.....I miss Dale.

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SP thinks the new kickoff rules will actually increase the number of returns which would make the play more exciting than the ho-hum take it at the 25.  We'll see.

 

I'd love to know for sure, but I bet there's been more rule changes in the past 10 years than in the 30 years prior to that.

Edited by Dru

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We already complain about the refs screwing up but look how thick the damn rule book is. I don't envy their job but with all the botched calls and struggles they had the league has not made it easier for them. Look you ether have tackle football or not. As long as you have these huge fast guys collide into one another you're gonna have injuries,concussions. I mean it's as simple as that. All these rules,once they start being enforced are gonna have teams put out an unwatchable product.

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On 5/25/2018 at 10:13 AM, Dru said:

SP thinks the new kickoff rules will actually increase the number of returns which would make the play more exciting than the ho-hum take it at the 25.  We'll see.

 

I'd love to know for sure, but I bet there's been more rule changes in the past 10 years than in the 30 years prior to that.

I actually don't mind this rule change but it will be a major headache until players adjust to the rules & coaches figure out the best strategies & techniques to use with this new kickoff format. Flags are going to rain heavily on kickoffs in 2018. I'm in the same boat with Payton's line of thinking. Kickoff coverage units are going to be sloppy & undisciplined until players adapt to the rule change. Advantage kickoff returners.

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