NFL Rule Passes Replay, Kickoff Rule Changes

NFL owners voted some fairly significant rule changes, while tabling more sweeping penalty rules for defenseless players. Among the changes approved, kickoffs will take place at the 35-yard line, rather than the 30, and the replay booth will be allowed to challenge all scoring plays.

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NFL Rule Passes Rule Replay, Kickoff Changes

NFL owners agreed to make changes to kickoffs and to replay of scoring plays Tuesday, but decided to table a proposal involving hits on defenseless players. Foremost among the changes, owners voted 26-6 to move kickoffs forward to the 35-yard line. Some NFL head coaches had suggested moving the touchback line to the 25-yard line and to eliminate the two-man wedge, but both proposals failed to reach an owner vote.

The increase in serious injuries has been a central focus of negotiations between owners and the players union, as well as the competition committee and the commissioner's office in general, and kickoffs were identified as a part of the game that sees a high percentage of the most violent collisions and injuries. The move forward will lead to fewer returns and presumably fewer injuries.

It may also lead to the marginalizing of the importance of the kickoff return man. In Dallas, Dez Bryant emerged as an electric return man, but both of his return touchdowns were on punts. He did return 12 kickoffs at a solid 24.4 yard average, but that represented just 16% of the team's kickoff returns. 

League owners also voted to subject all scoring plays to a booth replay review. From a mechanical standpoint, this will save coaches a small portion of their reviews, and it will spare them a bit of embarrassment if they are out of challenges late in a game. From a viewership and game flow standpoint, the move figures to slow games, as the booth could call down to challenge any scoring play - a pretty steep increase in the number of plays the booth can challenge. An addendum that would eliminate a third coach's challenge in the event that they win their first two challenges did not pass. 

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