The NFL has been trying to come up with a solution for what can be one of the most exciting games, or one of the most boring plays in football.

They think they might have it.  They've got new rules for kickoffs this year in the NFL.

It can be the most exciting play, or easily the most boring

Kickoffs can have a huge impact on a game.  Just a couple seasons ago, you may have seen Nyheim Hines return two kickoffs for touchdowns in one game.  The first one happened on the very first play of the game.  Highmark Stadium went crazy!

The problem is, most of the kickoffs you saw this year ended in a ball that sailed out of the endzone or was just downed for a touchback.  It had most people scratching their heads wondering why we even bother kicking off anymore at all.

In 2023, there were only 550 kickoffs that resulted in an attempted return.  It was about half of the number from 2022.

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Safety is an issue

The problem is that you can't just change the rule without thinking about the safety of the players.  You want to encourage them to want to return the ball, but you also don't want them putting their safety at risk.  With players speeding at each other full speed, it's a play that ends up in injury a lot.


What are the new rules?

It sounds a lot more complicated than it is and it will feel a little bit easier to understand as the season goes on, but here are the rules according to the NFL:

The kicker will still kick off from their own 35-yard line.

The rest of the kicking team will all be between the reciving team's 45 and 40-yard line.

The returning team will start between their own 35 and 30 yard line with their returner lined up behind them in the "landing zone."

The landing zone will be between the receiving team's endzone and their own 20.

Aside from the kicker and receiver, no one will move until the ball is caught.

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  • Kickoffs that hit the landing zone must be returned.
  • Kickoffs that hit the landing zone and then go into the end zone must be returned or downed by the receiving team. If downed, the receiving team would get the ball at its own 20-yard line.
  • Kickoffs that go into the end zone and stay inbounds that are downed would give the receiving team the ball at their own 30-yard line. Kickoffs that go out of the back of the end zone (in the air or bounces) would also be a touchback at the receiving team's 30-yard line.
  • Kickoffs short of the landing zone would be treated like a kickoff out of bounds, and the receiving team would get the ball at its own 40-yard line.

Onside kicks will have to be declared and will only occur in the fourth quarter and onward when a team trails.

For now, it's just a temporary rule

As of right now, this is just a temporary 1-year rule.  They will see how it goes this year and possibly either go back to the original rules next year or tweak some of the rules for this hybrid style.

What do you think?  Will it make the game more exciting or is this going to ruin some games?

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