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NFL continues to explore shifting to XFL-style low-impact kickoff

We noted before the 2023 season that the NFL was studying the XFL’s low-impact kickoff, and after another season of tinkering with the kickoff rules, the league is continuing to consider a major change.

The NFL found during the 2023 season that concussions were down mostly because kickoff returns were down, thanks to the new rule giving the receiving team the option of fair catching and getting the ball at the 25-yard line. But in an effort to keep concussions down but possibly add some excitement to kickoffs, the league will once again look at adopting the XFL rule, according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post.

The XFL rule requires 10 players on each team to line up five yards apart on the kickoff, with only the kicker and the returner permitted to line up elsewhere. Because the players are so close together, they don't have time to get into a full sprint and there are fewer high-speed collisions than on standard kickoffs.

Fans who watched XFL games generally enjoyed the rule, finding that it resulted in more kickoff returns and more excitement, along with fewer injuries. The NFL has seemed wary of such a major change to the rules, but given how stale the kickoff became in 2023, the league might be willing to make a major change if it keeps injuries down but creates more excitement.

In the NFL's longstanding efforts to reduce concussions, kickoffs have become viewed as the most dangerous play in football. The low-impact kickoff may be the way of the future.