NFL adopts new kickoff rule for 2024

The kickoff was once one of the most exciting plays in the NFL. However, with all the injuries over the years, rules were adopted that minimized the kickoff in recent years.

On Tuesday, the NFL owners approved a new hybrid rule that completely changes the kickoff in hopes of making it an important part of the game again but also keeping it safe.

Here’s this directly from the NFL:

  • By Competition Committee; for one year only, amends Rule 6, to create a new form of a free kick play that is designed to: (1) resemble a typical scrimmage play by aligning players on both teams closer together and restricting movement to reduce space and speed; and (2) promote more returns. Permits the Replay Official automatically review whether a free kick legally touched the ground or a receiving team player in the landing zone.

Essentially, the 2024 season is a trial run for this new rule and the league will reexamine again next March. went more in-depth on the new rule.

Kickoffs will remain at the 35-yard line, but the remaining 10 players on the kicking unit will line up at the opposing team’s 40-yard line. The receiving team lines up with at least seven players in the “set-up zone,” a five-yard area between their own 35- and 30-yard lines, with a maximum of two returners can line up in the landing zone.

After the ball is kicked, the kicker cannot cross the 50-yard line and the 10 kicking team players cannot move until the ball hits the ground or a player in the landing zone or goes into the end zone. The receiving team’s players in the set-up zone also cannot move until the kick has hit the ground or a player in the landing zone or the end zone. The returner(s) may move at any time before or during the kickoff.

Penalties on scoring plays also will not carry over and will be taken on the point after attempt. On any penalty that carries over to kickoffs, the set-up and landing zones will not change, nor will the alignment of the 10 kickoff team players and all the receiving team players — only the kicker’s positioning move.

Kickoff scenarios:

The legislation also will lead to a tweak in onside kicks, which can only occur in the fourth quarter and onward when a team trails. The kicking team must declare its intent to onside kick.

On the same day as the NFL approved the kickoff rule, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed one of the NFL’s best returners, Cordarrelle Patterson, to a two-year deal. The 33-year-old is entering his 12th NFL season in 2024 and has 22 career receiving touchdowns, 16 rushing touchdowns and has returned nine kickoffs for touchdowns. When you consider how the league has limited the kickoff in recent years, those nine touchdowns are impressive.

Will Washington Commanders general manager Adam Peters add a dynamic player to the roster in hopes of boosting the team’s kick return game? Antonio Gibson returned kickoff the past two seasons, but he is gone. Veteran wide receiver Jamison Crowder returned punts in 2023, but is unlikely to return kicks.

A name to watch is Kazmeir Allen. Undrafted out of UCLA last season, Allen remained on Washington’s practice squad all of last season. He re-signed with the Commanders this offseason. During his time at UCLA, Allen returned 39 kickoffs at an average of 27 yards per return and had one touchdown.

Washington’s new special teams coach, Larry Izzo, is one of the NFL’s best and will certainly look to prioritize the return game in 2024.

Story originally appeared on Commanders Wire