clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NFL rule changes 2016: Test run cutting down on most exciting play in football

New, comments
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

In recent seasons the NFL has struggled with keeping the game exciting and managing player safety. Many times those two ideals fly in the face of each other. The league has long since cut out most big hits by heavily penalizing players for helmet to helmet hits which were once celebrated in highlight montages and lauded as a tactic teams like the Raiders of the '70s to strike fear into opponents.

Those days are over in light of the discovered negative affects NFL players face due to multiple blows to the head.

For the past few years the league, in their attempts to make the game safer, has been tinkering with the one play that has been described as the most exciting play in football -- kick returns.

For the 2016 season the league is going to try out moving the line of scrimmage after a touchback from the 20-yard-line to the 25-yard-line. The idea being to discourage returners from taking the ball out of the end zone.

"We passed moving the touchback to the 25, which we do think has a safety element to it," said Competition committee chairman Rich McKay. "We passed that also for one year because we do want to see if it changes the numbers and how it impacts the game because there is that thought that there will be some more short kicks. We'll see."

This isn't the first time in recent years the NFL has tinkered with kickoffs. First it was limiting the number of players who could form a wedge on a kickoff from three down to two. That was back in 2009. Then in 2011 they moved kickoffs from the 30-yard-line to the 35-yard-line to promote more touchbacks.

The rule change to move the touchback line of scrimmage to the 25 was proposed in 2011, but several coaches expressed concern about making too many changes on kickoffs, saying that bringing touchbacks out to the 25 would affect field position too much.

Now the league has a five year sample and ultimately have decided to implement the new touchback LOS on a trial basis. Or maybe the plan was always to spread out the rule changes in five-year increments to keep the fans from getting too upset.

Think of it like Frogs in a pot of water on a slow flame.

The second temporary rule change for 2016 will be an automatic ejection after two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. To see the permanent rule changes, click here.