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Offseason | 2024

Kickoffs among big NFL rule changes in 2024


ORLANDO, Fla. – The NFL is going to look much different in 2024 – right from the very start.

The league passed a massive rule change on Tuesday that will completely revamp the kickoffs, surely to change what has been a declining trend in recent years as the NFL has tried to make the game safer.

Now, the league has adopted a rule that was first implemented by the XFL, which will change the alignment of the kickoffs, to not only cut down on high-speed collisions, but to also allow returners more opportunities in the open field.

Last year, KaVontae Turpin had just 10 kickoff returns and the Cowboys had just 18 overall.

The new change, which will begin this upcoming season, will keep the kickoffs at the 35-yard line, but now the kicking team will have the other 10 players on the other side of the field at the 40-yard line. The receiving team will be 10 yards in front, in a "setup zone" between the 20 and 30-yard line. Two returners can be inside the 20-yard line to return.

None of the players from the kicking team can move until the ball either is caught or hits the ground. If teams decide to kick the ball out of the end zone for a touchback, the ball will now be placed at the 30-yard line.

"It's going to look really unique to the fans before the ball gets kicked," Cowboys special teams coordinator John Fassel said. "But the nuts and bolts of the play is really very similar to what it is now before the ball is caught. It's just going to look different at the start."

There will be no fair catches, no surprise onside kicks and teams can only do an onside kick attempt in the fourth quarter, but must notify the officials first. Both teams would then go back to a traditional kickoff format back at the 35-yard line again.

Other notable rule changes:

  • As approved on Monday, defenders can no longer use the "hip-drop" method on tackles to ball-carriers. A similar-type play injured former Cowboys running back Tony Pollard in the 2022 Divisional Playoffs in San Francisco and Pollard suffered a broken leg.
  • The trade deadline has been pushed back to after Week 9 of the NFL season. In the past, trades have ended after Week 6 of the regular season.
  • Teams now need just one successful challenge, to get awarded a third challenge in the game. In the past, if a team was unsuccessful in one of their two challenges, it negated a third. Now, they have to just win one challenge out of the first two attempts for a third challenge.
  • Replays can now be used if there is "clear and obvious visual evidence" that the game clock expired before any snap.

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