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NFL owners approve 3 playing rule changes


Owners voted Thursday to approve three playing rules changes and one bylaw for the 2020 season. Seven rules proposals and three bylaws were up for ratification, which requires yeas from 24 owners (75 percent).

Approved 2020 Playing Rules Summary

Proposed by Philadelphia; to amend Rule 15, Section 2, to make permanent the expansion of automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any successful or unsuccessful Try attempt.​​

By Competition Committee; expands defenseless player protection to a kickoff or punt returner who is in possession of the ball but who has not had time to avoid or ward off the impending contact of an opponent.

By Competition Committee; prevents teams from manipulating the game clock by com​​mitting multiple dead-ball fouls while the clock is running.​

Approved 2020 Bylaws Summary

By League Office; increases the number of players that may be designated for return off injured reserve from two to three. Incorporates interpretations applicable to bye weeks during the regular season and postseason.​​​

Among the tabled proposals was the alternative to the onside kick that would have allowed a team an opportunity to maintain possession of the ball after scoring. The rule, which ultimately did not pass, read as follows:

As an alternative to the Free Kick a team may elect to retain possession, subject to the following rules:

  • (1) A team may elect to retain possession no more than two times during the game.
  • (2) The kicking team must notify the Referee of its intention to forego a kickoff or safety kick and retain possession. The Referee will then notify the opponent of the scoring team's election.
  • (3) The ball will be spotted on the kicking team's 25-yard line, and the kicking team will possess the ball with the down and distance being fourth and 15 (Line to gain is the kicking team's 40-yard line).
  • (4) The Play Clock will be set to 25 seconds and winds on the ready for play signal. The Game Clock starts on the snap, and normal NFL timing rules apply.
  • (5) Standard rules for a scrimmage down apply.
  • (6) If the offense reaches the line to gain, the result of the play is a first down and all customary rules are in effect. If the defense stops the offense, the defense assumes possession at the dead-ball spot.
  • (7) If the offense is penalized on its one scrimmage down (fourth and 15), the offense cannot elect to kick off after the penalty is enforced. Example: the kicking team may not elect to kick after incurring a holding penalty on its one scrimmage down.
  • (8) Scrimmage kicks are prohibited. (9) Nothing in this exception prohibits a team from attempting a legal onside kickoff under Rule 6.

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