The NFL will have new kickoff rules in 2024 – here's how the play will work

The league will make a number of tweaks to its rulebook for the upcoming season

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The first play of NFL games will look a little different in 2024.

NFL owners approved new rules for kickoffs in the upcoming season, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday. This comes one day after the NFL revealed several other rule changes that will begin this fall when players take the field.

What exactly are the new rules? How do they impact the product on the field? And why did the league make these changes in the first place?

Here are the answers to all your questions about the 2024 NFL rule changes:

What is the new NFL kickoff rule for 2024?

The rules for kickoffs will take some getting used to. Here's how the play will work:

  • The kicking team will kick off from its own 35-yard line.
  • 10 members of the kicking team will line up on the receiving team's 40-yard line (25 yards in front of their kicker).
  • A minimum of nine members of the receiving team will line up between their own 30- and 35-yard lines (five-to-10 yards in front of the 10 members of the kicking team).
  • The receiving team can have zero, one or two players inside their own 30-yard line to receive the kickoff.
  • The play begins when the ball is either caught, hits the ground in the landing zone (inside the 20-yard line before the goal line) or is returned from the end zone. That's when players can begin moving.
  • Any kick that hits the landing zone must be returned.
  • Any kick that bounces from the landing zone into the end zone must be returned or kneeled for a touchback (with possession going out to the 20-yard line).
  • If a kick doesn't reach the landing zone, the receiving team gets possession at its 40-yard line.
  • If the ball enters the end zone in the air, the receiving team can return it or kneel it for possession at its 30-yard line.
  • If the ball is kicked out of bounds, the receiving team gets possession at its 40-yard line.
  • There are no fair catches.
  • Onside kicks are only permitted in the fourth quarter and must be declared to officials

Why did the NFL change the kickoff rule?

Last season marked the lowest kickoff return rate in NFL history, according to the league. So, the main goal with a revamped kickoff procedure was to encourage more kick returns while keeping the play safe.

With the new kickoff rules, the NFL is aiming to increase return rate while getting the injury rate closer to a traditional scrimmage play. Kickoff have long had a higher injury rate for players due to the speed and distance traveled in such a short amount of time.

When does the new NFL kickoff rule start?

The new NFL kickoff rules will debut in the preseason this summer and be used throughout the 2024 regular season and playoffs.

What other NFL rule changes are there in 2024?

Team owners and the competition committee have been meeting to discuss several topics for the upcoming season. Here are the confirmed changes for 2024:

  • The NFL has banned the hip-drop tackle.
  • Teams gain a third challenge following one successful challenge.
  • If there's a double foul during a down where there's a change of possession, the team last gaining possession will keep the ball after enforcement of the foul (as long as it did not foul prior to last gaining possession).
  • The replay assistant will now be permitted to correct incorrect calls for roughing the passer and intentional grounding (must be purely objective).
  • Replay review can be used when there is clear and obvious visual evidence that the game clock expired before any snap.
  • Clubs have an unlimited number of designated for return transactions in the postseason.
  • The trade deadline will be pushed back one week to the Tuesday after Week 9.
  • Clubs can elevated a quarterback an unlimited number of times from its practice squad to be its emergency third quarterback.
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