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Super Bowl LVIII - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs

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The NFL’s annual owners meeting ends today, and the participants have decided to make some big changes.

But as expected, changes don’t come without a little friction because the altercations affect one of the most integral parts of the game: kickoff.

Usually, the defending team would immediately take off for the endzone as soon as their kicker launches the ball, but now they have to stay put.

Both teams will line up opposite each other, with the kicking team lining up at the opposing 40-yard line, while kickers will still kick from the 35-yard line.

The receiving team is allowed to have up to two returners in the backfield, while the rest of the team will be in the “set-up zone,” which is anywhere between the 30 and 35-yard line.

No one can move until the receiver touches the ball, which makes things a lot safer because no one will collide at top speed. This factor comes into play as players’ health, especially the risk of CTE, becomes more prevalent.

“We feel like we’ve made this play a heckuva lot safer for the players. We’re going to eliminate some of the big collisions,” said New Orleans Saints special teams coordinator Rizzi said.

Safety aside, it’ll also make the game more exciting since the 2023-24 had a terribly low return rate of less than 25%.

Coaches will have to introduce some new strategies with the new kickoff rule and possibly different sorts of rosters because the typical special team talents needed in years past may not work. Plus, if the new ruling doesn’t prove to work during 2024-25, it’s not a big deal because it’s on a one-year trial. If it sounds familiar, it’s because it was adopted from the XFL.

In the name of safety, the league has also banned the ‘hip-drop tackle’ because it was the cause of many leg and foot injuries.

The NFL describes the tackle as when a tackler “grabs the runner with both hands or wraps the runner with both arms” and then “unweights himself by swiveling and dropping his hips and/or lower body, landing on and trapping the runner’s leg(s) at or below the knee.”

This basically means that a 200-plus-pound man putting most of his weight on another player’s legs who’s moving at full speed is no longer allowed and results in a 15-yard penalty and automatic first down.

A smaller change to the upcoming season is a new rule that allows a review of whether the game clock expired before the snap. The catalyst of the rule was likely a play during Week 4 last season. It came when the Green Bay Packers ran for 44 yards at the end of the third quarter, and the Detroit Lions wanted to challenge that the snap came after the clock expired, but rules didn’t allow it.

Coaches can also make a third replay challenge if the first two weren’t ruled their way, and replay can also reverse a decision if a quarterback was down or out of bounds while throwing a pass.

How The NFL Is Injecting New Energy Into The Game By Revamping Kickoff & Safety Rules  was originally published on