NFL owners approved several new rules on Wednesday for the upcoming 2021 season. In response to ongoing demands from coaches, one of the rules will expand the influence of replay officials for more oversight of game-day officials.
Owners rejected more robust rule proposals in relation to the expansion of replay officials’ authority. For example, the Baltimore Ravens proposed a rule that would have created a booth umpire.
Instead of these robust rules, the owners decided to take the more moderate step in giving the existing replay officials, who sit in the press box of each stadium, the power to consult with on-field referees on “specific, objective aspects of a play when clear and obvious video evidence is present,” according to the language of the rule.
This rule does not mean replay officials will be able to reverse calls or throw flags own their own, but they can advise referees based on what they’ve seen on broadcast replays. Before, replay officials were limited to providing insight only for plays that were under review. Coaches will not have to throw challenge flags to get replay officials to review plays. Replay officials this coming season will be able to provide on-field referees with information on plays such as completed or intercepted passes, the location of the ball relative to the boundary or end line, and whether a player is down by contact.
Remaining Rule Changes
- Eliminate overtime in the preseason: Any of the three preseason games that end in a tie will remain a tie. For prior seasons, preseason rules were the same as regular season rules.
Establish maximum number of players in the “setup zone” during a kickoff: In 2020, the teams that received a kick had to have at least eight players lined up in the “setup zone” up until the ball is kicked. For the receiving team, this “setup zone” is the field area between 10 yards in front of the teed ball, and 15 yards from that restraining line. Prior to this rule, the minimum amount of players in the setup zone was eight, but there was no maximum. From now on, there is a maximum of nine players in the setup zone. This means there needs to be two players outside of the receiving team.
Ensure the enforcement of all penalties by either team on extra-point and two-point conversion attempts: Penalty will be enforced if they occur on back-to-back try extra-point or two-point conversion attempts.
- Add the loss of a down to the penalty of a second forward pass: Previously, when a team committed the penalty for two forward passes on one play, the penalty was simply five yards. In addition to the loss of five yards, teams will incur a loss of down for the same penalty.
- Loosened jersey number restrictions: Previously, the NFL has restricted what positions can hold what numbers. The purpose of this jersey number restriction was to designate eligible receivers from non-eligible receivers. This year the NFL loosened those restrictions. Here are the new legal numbers per position:
- QB: 1-19
- RB: 1-49, 80-89
- TE: 1-49, 80-89
- WR: 1-49, 80-89
- OL: 50-79
- DL: 50-79, 90-99
- LB: 1-59, 90-99
- DB: 1-49
Here are the key rules that got approved today by the NFL:
1. One less player in the onside kick box
2. Replay official can help on-field officials with certain calls
3. WRs, RBs and other positions can wear single digit jerseys pic.twitter.com/siKYwr7YWF
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) April 21, 2021