The NFL announced several changes to its rules regarding kickoffs for the 2018 season following Tuesday's vote at the league's spring meetings:
The biggest changes involve the pre-snap formations allowed, including the prevention of running starts for the kicking team. All players on the kickoff team are forced to line up within one yard of the restraining line.
The kickoff team is also required to have five players on each side of the ball, a change from the minimum of four players last year.
On the receiving side, eight players are now required to line up in the 15-yard "setup zone" prior to the kickoff. Wedge blocks are also now illegal.
The NFL football operations Twitter account showcased the changes in animated form:
The majority of these moves were made to reduce the speed of players and the impact of collisions.
"With the old rule, you had guys running at each other," Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub explained in the beginning of May, per Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com. "Now, you'll have guys running with each other down the field. That makes a big difference...because the distance between the two of them are closer. The distance between the front line and the kickoff return team is so tight that when they run down the field, it's a lot like a punt. They're running together. You're pushing people on the side and you don't have those big collisions. That was the main thing in our proposal."
As Seifert previously reported, "the kickoff has long been a source of concern for NFL medical staffs." Eliminating the play altogether was a possibility prior to these rule changes.
With the new rules set to be evaluated next offseason, it's possible they only delay the inevitable removal of kickoffs from the NFL.