Penalty enforcement provisions of proposed kickoff rule could be tweaked

The proposed changes to the kickoff, which are both extensive and comprehensive, include rules for enforcing penalties that happen during a touchdown and during the try.

As it stands, penalties happening during a touchdown play would be enforced only on the try, and penalties happening during the try would result in movement of the kicker but not the other 21 members of the new kickoff configuration.

Per a league source, potential ramifications of that approach could result in tweaks to this approach. One concern comes from the potential temptation for defensive players to take a chance with, say, roughing the passer if the downside would be not a kickoff from midfield but a half-the-distance penalty on the try. Also, and as mentioned on Wednesday, a penalty on the try by the defense might be routinely denied, since kickers will be more comfortable hitting the 20-yard landing zone from the usual kickoff spot of the 35. Thus, defensive players might be more willing to take a shot at someone during a one- or two-point conversion attempt.

The entire situation is rife with potential unintended and/or unanticipated consequences. If, for example, the penalty on a touchdown or a try is enforced at the start of the next drive, what happens if the kick return results in a touchdown? Will it be known even before the kick that a touchdown would be wiped off the board?

These are all wrinkles that will need to be resolved by the Competition Committee and by the owners. There still needs to be a real disincentive to committing a penalty during a touchdown or a try. The current rule as proposed might not create enough of a consequence to deter rough stuff on either play.

Frankly, the proposal has so many of these potential questions that it's hard to imagine a final rule being adopted in March. Like plenty of other rule changes from past years, this one might not be finalized until the next round of ownership meetings, in May.