NFL's new kickoff rule

I’m not a huge football fan but I do like a good 90+ yard kickoff return. This sounds kind of boring to me.

So, um, for purposes of discussion, are you going to tell us what the new rule is?

Kicker kicks from 35 yard line
Rest of his team lines up on opponent’s 40
9 of receiving team line up on their 35.
No one but kicker and two receivers can move until ball is caught (or probably touched I guess if it’s muffed)
Out of Bounds or touchbacks put into play from the 30 yard line.

I think that’s it.

ETA: You may only try a traditional onside kick in the 4th quarter. You declare so ahead of the kick and line up as you used to.

OldGuy covered it.

Rich Eisen went over it today on his show. It’s complicated, like 10 pages complicated.
It’s supposed to be similar to the XFL kickoff if you know what the is like.

Some people are thinking there will be more kickoff returns for touchdowns

I think kickoffs that bounce or roll into the end zone go to the 25. And…

Due to the new kickoff format, NFL teams will be able to declare they want to pursue an onside kick in the fourth quarter of games. They can declare to do so twice.

“If you’re trailing and want to kick a traditional onside kick, you have that right,” McKay said.

With the players from both sides lining up five yards apart, the idea of a surprise onside kick to catch the opposition off-guard will be a thing of the past.

As are fake 2-point attempts off of a regular 1-point conversion since extra points got moved to the 15. Oh well.

[saw the 2 ninja posts yes]

If they touch the ground or a player before the end zone and are downed in the endzone or roll out of the end zone, it’s put in play from the 20,

When I first read the rule, I thought it sounded dumb. But after watching the similar rule in practice in the XFL, I’ve come around. The play actually looks pretty similar to the old kickoffs but with lower injury risk. I’m happy to trade the vanishingly rare surprise onside kick for fewer injuries and fewer touchbacks.

Here’s an example from the XFL:

And here are a couple examples of runbacks for TDs - one with some trickery, the other with plain old blocking and good running.

The kicking team’s optimal approach here would seem to NOT all rush in on a line, but for some to hang back like linebackers/safties, sacrificing an early tackle inside the 20 to ensure that everybody doesn’t all get faked out like in the 2nd clip. You cannot depend on the kicker to act as a deep safety all by his lonesome, even if he is athletic enough to do so.

Last year there were a whopping 4 kickoffs returned for touchdowns. 80% resulted in touchbacks.

We’re at the point where we might as well eliminate kickoffs (except for onside kicks) and the opponent gets it at their 25.

This makes OOB and TBs undesirable for the kicking team.
There is also the “landing zone” from yards 20-Goal. If the ball lands in that zone, it must be returned. If it isn’t returned, and is downed or goes out the back of the end zone, it’s set at the 20. This means the kicker will target the landing zone and force a return to happen.

This isn’t quite right.

The USA Today article notwithstanding, there are actually three different kinds of touchbacks. This explanation is copied from CBS Sports.

  • Touchback at the 40-yard line. If the kickoff doesn’t make it past the return team’s 20-yard line, then the ball is considered out of bounds and the return team will get possession at its own 40-yard line (or 25 yards from the spot of the kick). If the ball is kicked out of bounds, the receiving team will get the ball at its own 40 or the spot where the ball went out of bounds.
  • Touchback at the 30-yard line. If the ball is kicked into the end zone on the fly, then the receiving team gets a touchback at its own 30-yard line. This touchback also applies if the ball is kicked out of the back of the end zone. When the rule was originally proposed, this touchback was supposed to be at the 35, but it was tweaked over the weekend to make it the 30, according to
  • Touchback at the 20-yard line. If a ball hits the ground in the landing zone and then rolls into the end zone – and doesn’t get returned – then the touchback will only go out to the 20.

It’s better than the rule they have now that, for all practical purposes, removed one of the most exciting plays from football. Will Goodell ever retire? He makes me sick.

I really thought they were going to consider switching the onside kick to a 4th and 20 (30?) play. I’d much rather see that implemented.

Just think, if you’re down 21 points with a minute left, you have the chance to spam hail marys and tie it up!

I’m not convinced this will happen.

Obviously an extremely small sample size, but the linked videos upthread show that a long return is a distinct possibility, and even a short, well-covered return can somewhat easily get past the 30-yard line.

I think that there will be more end-zone touchbacks than returns, even though that places the ball at the 30. Kickers today can reach the end zone on most, if not all, kickoffs. The extra 5 yards on the touchback seems like a small price to pay to avoid the possibility of a long return.

Obviously we’ll see how it plays out. It will be interesting to see how different teams approach this.

In the discussions to formalize the new rule, the estimates were that setting an endzone touchback at the 35 would result in 85-90% of kicks being returned, and putting it at the 30 would result in 50-60% returns, for the reason you describe.

But that’s a complete guess.

Yeah, it seems almost more… rugby like(?) than I expected.

According to the official rules (assuming I’m interpreting them correctly), it’s got to be all 10 players other than the kicker on their own 35 yard line for the kickoff team, and then 7 of the return team have to be on their 35 yard line, 2 can be as far back as the 30 outside the hashmarks, and 2 can be between the 20 and the goal line.

What’s most interesting is the (IMO complicated) touchback rules:

  • Setup Zone – a 5-yard area from the B35 to the B30 yard line where at least 9 receiving team players must line up
  • Landing zone is the area between the receiving team’s goal line and its 20-yard line.
  • Any kick that hits short of the landing zone – treated like kickoff out of bounds and ball spotted at B40 yard line; play would be blown dead as soon as kick lands short of the landing zone
  • Any kick that hits in the landing zone - must be returned
  • Any kick that hits in the landing zone and then goes into the end zone – must be returned or downed by receiving team – if downed then touchback to B20 yard line
  • Kick hits in end zone, stays inbounds - returned or downed – if downed then touchback to B30 yard line
  • Any kick that goes out of the back of the end zone (in the air or bounces) – touchback to B30 yard linestrong text

The setup and landing zones don’t change with penalties apparently, nor are they different on safeties.

New NFL Kickoff Rule | NFL Football Operations

bump mentioned safeties, a bit more detail:

Safety Kick:

The kick will be from the 20-yard line, and the kicker will have the option to use a tee;
the setup zone and the landing zone will not change

That would require the kick (almost always a punt nowadays) to carry at least 60 yards in the air, which is doable but not a given, esp. if the wind is in his face.

I like this new kickoff rule. I think it serves to reduce injuries while making kickoffs more interesting. The only downside is that it’s a lot more complicated, which will make things harder for fans, officials, and players, at least at first. But let’s be honest, if you’re a long time NFL fan you should be used to complicated rules, and many fans kind of like them because rules discussions can be fun.

I mean, we do that crap all the time here…