NFL Rumors: This Radical Rule Change Is Gaining Support Ahead Of Official Vote


May 21, 2020

Late-game situations in the NFL could look radically different this season.

Support for a proposed rule change that would replace onside kicks with fourth-and-15 conversion attempts is gaining steam, according to a report Thursday from NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero.

NFL owners will vote on that and other rule proposals during next week’s virtual league meetings.

How exactly would this new format work?

Let’s say a team trailing by 12 points scores a touchdown with 1:30 remaining in the fourth quarter. Under the current rules, if that team wanted to maintain possession, it would need to successfully execute an onside kick — which, thanks to the league’s 2018 kickoff modifications, has become a monumentally difficult task in recent years.

NFL teams recovered 21 percent of their own onside kicks through the 2017 season, according to After the league banned running starts on kickoff and required teams to position five players on each side of the ball, that number plunged to 7.7 percent in 2018 and 12.9 percent in 2019.

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The rule change, proposed by the Philadelphia Eagles, would allow teams to instead attempt one play from their own 25-yard line. If they gain 15 yards, they keep the ball. If not, the opposing team takes over with prime field position.

Teams would be limited to two such attempts per game, per Pelissero, and must be trailing at the time.

According to research published by the NFL in January, the historical success rate on fourth-and-15 plays is 16.8 percent, slightly higher than the rate of onside kick recovery (13.2 percent).

The NFL tested this new system in the 2020 Pro Bowl.

Here is the full list of proposed rule changes, via the league’s official release:

— By the Competition Committee, to amend Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9, to expand defenseless player protection to a kickoff or punt returner who is in possession of the ball but who has not had time to avoid or ward off the impending contact of an opponent.

— By the Competition Committee, to amend Rule 4, Section 3, Article 2, to prevent teams from manipulating the game clock by committing multiple dead-ball fouls while the clock is running.

— By Philadelphia; to amend Rule 15, Section 2, to make permanent the expansion of automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any successful or unsuccessful try attempt.

— By Philadelphia; to amend Rule 6, Section 1, Article 1, to provide an alternative to the onside kick that would allow a team who is trailing in the game an opportunity to maintain possession of the ball after scoring (4th and 15 from the kicking team?s 25-yard line).

— By Miami; to amend Rule 4, Section 3, Article 2, to provide the option to the defense for the game clock to start on the referee?s signal if the defense declines an offensive penalty that occurs late in either half.

— By Baltimore and Los Angeles Chargers; to amend Rule 19, Section 2, to add a ?booth umpire? as an eighth game official to the officiating crew.

— By Baltimore and Los Angeles Chargers; to amend Rule 19, Section 2, to add a Senior Technology Advisor to the Referee to assist the officiating crew.

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