The 2018 NFL season will be another great year of football; as long as the new rules don't impact the game. At the NFL Annual League Meeting that took place March 25-28, 2018, team owners voted on rule changes that will be implemented for the 2018-2019 season.
New Kickoff Rules
NFL kickoffs are the most dangerous in the game due to all the collisions that happen. After the league reviewed their medical data, it showed that concussions were five times as likely to happen on kickoffs than during other plays, according to ESPN. The new kickoff rules, in particular, will make the game safer and possibly more strategic than in years past. The rules include eliminating the running start for the kicking team, banning wedge blocks. These change to how the receiving team can line up.
Here's a list of changes football fans can expect to see on kickoffs for 2018.
No running starts
Players on the kicking team will no longer be allowed to get a running start. The goal of the league is to reduce the speed of collisions which, in theory, reduces the risk of injury. Under the old rules, players could start at the 30-yard line and get a running start, so long as they didn’t cross the 35-yard line before the kick. The new rule will force players to wait at the 34-yard line.
Most of the return team is confined to a “setup zone”
The "setup zone" begins with eight out of the return team’s 11 players in a 15-yard zone near midfield. Previously, blockers were allowed to start anywhere, as long as they were behind their “restraining line” — which was 10 yards from the kicking team. This new rule makes blocking similar to a punt.
No wedge blocks
Following today’s vote at the @NFL Spring League Meetings, here’s everything you need to know about the new kickoff rules for the upcoming 2018 season. The rule will be reevaluated next offseason. pic.twitter.com/YubLyMBR4g— NFL Football Operations (@NFLFootballOps) May 22, 2018
Due to the confined "setup zone," they have now been removed wedges altogether. After the eight players are in the "setup zone", it leaves two blockers and a returner near the goal line. Those two players cannot team up to both block the same player.
No blocking in the first 15 yards
This rule will force blockers of the return team to wait until the coverage unit crosses midfield before engaging in contact. This solves two things. By forcing blockers to wait, they now have a better chance of at least slowing the coverage team down. This rule also eliminates what the NFL calls the “jump-set/attack” block. Now, the coverage team can no longer be blindsided by blockers when they know exactly when and where the blocking will start.
Changes on the horizon?
Retired referee Terry McAulay sees these rules as a massive adjustment for officials. Here's a statement he said last month on this topic, “It isn’t getting as much press, but the kickoff change, this may be the biggest change I’ve ever seen,” McAulay said, via ESPN.com. “People know so little about it. There are so many restrictions on what either side of the ball can do. … I spoke with a special-teams coordinator who is excited about it, and I know we all feel it can be great for the game. But [officials] have to wait and see. There are a lot of intricate rules in terms of what [players] can and cannot do.”
Thinking about players' safety is a great thing. This moves for kickoffs was definitely a long time coming. The league believes that kickoffs are one of the dullest and most time-consuming plays in football and we can't argue that. These rules will help save time while decreasing the risk of serious injuries on special teams plays.