National Football League
2024 New NFL kickoff rules: Change to XFL format to encourage more returns
National Football League

2024 New NFL kickoff rules: Change to XFL format to encourage more returns

Updated May. 3, 2024 11:05 a.m. ET

Kickoffs will look a lot different in the NFL beginning next season.

The league's owners approved the hybrid kickoff model at the NFL’s Annual League Meeting, according to multiple reports

With the new rule, kickers will still kick off from their own 35-yard line. However, the other 10 members of the kicking team will line up at the opposing team's 40-yard line. 

The return team will have at least nine blockers lined up in the "set up zone" between the 30- and 35-yard line, with at least seven of those players touching the 35. There would be up to two returners allowed inside the 20.


Only the kicker and two returners would be allowed to move until the ball hits the ground or is touched by a returner inside the 20.

Any kick that reaches the end zone in the air can be returned, or the receiving team can opt for a touchback and possession at the 30. Any kick that reaches the end zone in the air and goes out of bounds or out of the end zone also would result in a touchback at the 30.

If a ball hits a returner or the ground before the end zone and goes into the end zone, a touchback would be at the 20 or the play could be returned. Any kick received in the field of play would have to be returned.

The new kickoff rule is modeled after the XFL's kickoff rule, which was created to encourage more returns and lessen injuries on kickoffs. The NFL is hoping that the new kickoff rule will have a similar result in 2024. 

"This is our chance to keep special teams in the game," NFL Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay said Monday, calling the current kickoff now a dead play. "Special teams has been a part of the game forever. And, if you lose the kickoff, in our mind, you really pretty much eliminated special teams and put it on a punt play."

In previous years, the NFL has moved kickoffs 5 yards closer to the other team's end zone but also placed the ball at the receiving team's 25-yard line instead of the 20-yard line following a touchback.

The NFL will implement the new kickoff rule on a one-year basis, allowing it to either renew the rule or do away with it in 2025.

The kickoff rule was one of the few rule changes approved by owners at this week's league meetings, including also moving the trade deadline back one week to the Tuesday after Week 9.

Also, in a controversial move, the league banned the hip-drop tackle on Monday in a change meant to protect ballcarriers.

The NFL also approved a rule that will allow coaches to earn a third challenge after just one successful challenge. Previously, coaches needed to win both of their challenges in order to earn a third challenge.

Additionally, the replay assistant will also be allowed to review roughing the passer and intentional grounding penalties. However, they have to fall within objective parameters to be reviewed and overturned.

Here is a full list of the changes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


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