New NFL Kickoff Rule with One Goal: Reducing Concussions

The NFL on Tuesday approved modifications to the kickoff of games with the goals of decreasing the rate of concussions and increasing the number of kick returns.

With the new rule, the kicker will continue to punt from the 35-yard line, but his other 10 teammates will line up at the opponent’s 40-yard line.

On the receiving team, at least nine players will line up in a ‘staging zone’ between their 35 and 30 yards, just five or 10 yards from the opponents; The other two players on the receiving team will be between the 20-yard line and the line that starts the end zone.

No one but the kicker and returner can move until the ball touches the ground or one of the two returners catches it, a restriction that will reduce the speed of collision between the rest of the players.

The new kickoff rule will be tested during the 2024 season
Previously, defensive players lined up at the 35-yard line and set out to stop the opponent as soon as the kicker punted from the 35-yard line.

The opponent lined up eight players at the 50-yard line who also started moving when the ball was cleared.

This led to a higher number of high-speed collisions resulting in many concussions; it also called on teams to avoid kickoff returns, something the NFL hopes to change with the rule modifications.

The change was approved with a 28-3 vote (49ers, Raiders, and Packers) from NFL team owners at the league’s Void Meeting in Orlando, Florida, which will conclude Wednesday.

With this rule change, it was also established that onside kicks will only be allowed in the last period of the match if the kicking team is at a disadvantage and declares its intention to make this kick.

Previously, the onside kick could be used freely as a surprise play at any point in the match.

Other relevant changes approved are that the league will allow teams to promote a quarterback from the practice team to the team’s active roster during game days, as an emergency third quarterback, an unlimited number of times during the season.

It was also agreed that the player trade deadline would be moved from Week 8 to the Tuesday following the end of Week 9 of the season.

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