NFL Considering New 'Minor' Changes to Kickoff Ahead of 2018 Season

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2018

In this picture made with a specialty lens the New England Patriots kick off to the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

The NFL is considering changing the kickoff rule again prior to the 2018 season.

Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com reported the news, noting "this is an unusually late development caused in part by a hectic scramble this spring to make the play safer."

NFL spokesman Michael Signora released a statement regarding potential changes, saying: "The NFL officiating and football operations staff, with competition committee approval, may make some minor tweaks to the language to further clarify the rule. If so, that information would be circulated to all clubs and the rule book updated accordingly."

This comes after the NFL announced a number of changes to prior kickoff rules in May following a vote at the league's spring meetings:

Among the changes was the requirement for the kicking team to feature five players on each side of the ball instead of four. What's more, players on the kicking team also had to line up within one yard of the line, limiting the ability for running starts.

NFL Football Operations explained the changes through animation:

These rule changes figure to reduce hard-hitting collisions on kickoffs, and Seifert noted NFL data revealed concussions were five times more likely on kickoffs than other plays.

However, he noted one concern leading to additional potential changes is the elimination of wedge blocks but not every double-team. With the new rule saying double-teams are allowed by players who lined up in the setup zone together, officials would need to know where every player started the play in addition to their other responsibilities on kickoffs.

According to Seifert, officials have "several concerns" about the kickoff rule changes that were announced this year, inspiring the possibility of more alterations.

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