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NFL clubs approve changes to kickoff, ejections

On Tuesday in Atlanta, NFL clubs adopted two playing rules proposals at the 2018 spring meeting, which concludes today.

Adopted were an expansion of reviewable plays to include the disqualification of a player, and modifications to the kickoff play for one year only. In conjunction with the "use of the helmet" rule, the new disqualification rule reads: "It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent." All disqualification of players are also now reviewable.

How will it be enforced? The ejection standards are:

• Player lowers his helmet to establish a linear body posture prior to initiating and making contact with the helmet.

• Player delivering the blow had an unobstructed path to his opponent.

• Contact was clearly avoidable; Player delivering the blow had other options.

As for the kickoff, the changes are as follows:

• Kickoff team must have five players on each side of the ball.

• Kickoff team cannot line up more than one yard from restraining line (34-yard line for kickoff at 35). Effect: players will not have a running start to run downfield after kick.

• At least two players must be lined up outside the yard-line number and two players between the inbounds line and the yard-line number.

• At least eight players must be in 15-yard "setup zone" prior to the kickoff; only three players can remain outside of the setup zone. Effect: moves more players on kickoff return closer to where ball is kicked to reduce speed and space on the play.

• No wedge blocks are permitted. Only players who were initially lined up in the setup zone may come together in a double-team block. Effect: Limits the blocking schemes permitted by personnel on the kickoff return team.

• Until the ball is touched or the ball hits the ground, no player on the receiving team may cross its restraining line, or initiate a block against the kicking team in the 15-yard area from the kicking team's restraining line. Effect: Eliminates the "jump-set/attack" block.

• The ball is dead if it is not touched by the receiving team and touches the ground in the end zone (touchback). Effect: no requirement for kickoff returner to "down" the ball in end zone.

The changes were made in consultation with special teams coaches and members of the league's Competition Committee during a player safety summit at league headquarters in New York earlier this month.