Dec 31, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs place kicker Harrison Butker (7) kicks the opening kickoff against the Cincinnati Bengals during the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Rules Committee Considering XFL Kickoff Format

In an effort to combat kickoff injuries, the NFL implemented new rules for fair catches in the 2023 season. Instead of the ball being placed at the spot of the catch, it was placed at the 25-yard line. The rule change was effective at decreasing concussions but resulted in a historically low percentage of returns.

For the first time in NFL history, this year’s Super Bowl did not feature a kickoff return.

The kick return has always been one of the most dangerous plays in an already violent sport. Burly men booming down the field to punish an often undersized, speedy return-man.

However, to keep concussions low while maintaining returns, the NFL is considering adding the XFL’s kick return format.

XFL Kickoff Rule

To differentiate themselves from America’s premier professional football league, the XFL imposed unique rules such as an altered kickoff.

The kicker lines up at their 30-yard line, while the rest of the kicking team lines up at the opponent’s 35. The ten non-returners are lined up at their 30-yard line, 5-yards from the kicking team. Nobody can move until the returner catches the ball. Touchbacks are placed at the 35 yard-line.

The return design allows for returns while minimizing high speed collisions.

League Pushback

Consideration of the rule changed has garnered pushback from members of the NFL community.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that last year’s fair catch change was unanimously opposed by special team coordinators. Players and coaches argue that these rule changes eliminate the need for special team specialists.

League traditionalists insist that a drastic change to the kickoff would excessively alter the sport.

In order to implement the rule, 24 of the NFL’s 32 owners need to vote for enacting the change. If the rule change is actually proposed, the owners would vote during the Annual League Meeting, which takes place on March 24-27 in Orlando, Fla.

About Lance Williams

Lance Williams is a first-year Economics major with a minor in Mass Communications, and an aspiring play-by-play broadcaster.

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