NFL approves new kickoff rule

In one of the most significant rule changes in NFL history, league owners voted today to fundamentally change the kickoff.

In a vote at the annual league meeting, the NFL has adopted a low-impact kickoff, modeled on what has previously been used in the XFL, that the league believes will increase the number of returns while decreasing the number of injuries.

Fans will notice major changes immediately, starting with the first play of every game: Kickoffs will not look the same this year.

Under the new rule, 10 players on each team will line up just five yards apart and won’t begin running until the ball gets back to the returner, meaning players won’t be going full speed when they crash into each other, which caused so many injuries on kickoffs in years past. Of the 22 players on the field, only the kicker and the kickoff returner will line up separately from those 20 players who are five yards apart.

The rule was changed as a one-year trial, which means it will need to be re-approved next year or else the league will revert to its previous kickoff rules.

When the rule was tried in the XFL, injuries were down and returns were up. That’s what the NFL hopes to see this year. And the kickoff in the NFL will look different than it has ever looked before.

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