Speculation Mounts Over Future NFL Kickoff Rule Adjustments in 2024


According to NFL Media, NFL special teams coordinators have put forth a proposal that, if accepted, would bring significant alterations to the kickoff in 2024.

In recent years, football has undergone adjustments aimed at reducing injuries, and this trend is likely to continue. 

While the exact nature of these new changes remains uncertain, fans and players now have insight into a potential series of rule modifications that would notably transform kickoffs, particularly onside kicks.

During the NFL Combine, special teams coordinators convened to discuss a proposal aimed at modifying one of the most injury-prone aspects of the sport. 

These changes aim to achieve a dual objective: enhancing returns while diminishing the velocity of player collisions.

NFL Kickoff Changes: Proposed Reforms

LAS VEGAS, NV – FEBRUARY 11: The NFL logo on display prior to Super Bowl LVIII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday February 11, 2024 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, NV.

Here are the three primary components of the proposal, contingent upon securing a 75 percent approval from league owners for implementation:

  1. Onside kicks: Teams would be permitted to attempt onside kicks exclusively during the fourth quarter and only if they are behind on the scoreboard.
  2. Revised setup zone: Both the kicking and receiving teams would position themselves at the receiving team’s 40 and 35-yard-lines, respectively. Neither team would be allowed to depart from their positions until the ball enters the designated “target zone,” spanning from the 20-yard-line to the goal line. This arrangement mirrors the kickoff setup employed by the XFL in 2023.
  3. Touchbacks: If the ball is kicked into the end zone, teams will start possession from the 35-yard-line. However, if the ball lands inside the “target zone” and subsequently rolls into the end zone, possession will commence from the 20-yard-line.

Concerning onside kicks, there is a potential consideration for teams to employ an unbalanced formation, a practice presently prohibited, which would likely result in a higher frequency of onside kick attempts.

Ultimately, the NFL aims to promote more kickoff returns while mitigating instances of high-velocity collisions. 

In 2023, merely 22 percent of kickoffs resulted in returns, with none of the 13 kickoffs during Super Bowl LVIII being returned.

The league endeavors to augment kickoff returns without concurrently escalating the occurrence of concussions. 

The modification of the kickoff model by the NFL was initially motivated by concerns regarding concussions during kickoffs. 

This proposal may undergo a vote during the NFL’s annual meeting scheduled from March 24-27.

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