The NFL Spring Meeting is underway in Atlanta, and on Tuesday, league owners voted to adopt changes to kickoffs while expanding reviewable plays to include the disqualification of a player.
Starting this year, the kickoff team must have five players on each side of the ball for a five-by-five alignment. Previously, teams were only required to have four on each side.
In addition, the kickoff team cannot line up more than one yard from where the ball is placed. Thus, they will be at the 34-yard line while the ball is at the 35. Players previously were allowed to line up five yards back with a running head start, which is now eliminated.
Meanwhile, for return teams, at least eight players must be in a 15-yard "setup zone" prior to the kickoff, with only three allowed outside of the area. This new change moves more players on kickoff returns closer to where the ball is kicked in an effort to reduce speed and space on the play.
Furthermore, wedge blocks have been fully eliminated. Previously, teams were allowed to have two-man wedges. In addition, 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 until the ball is touched or hits the ground. The effect of this change is meant to eliminate the "jump/set" attack block.
Finally, the ball is now dead if it is not touched by the receiving team and touched the ground in the end zone. It will automatically result in a touchback. In years past, the ball is dead only if it was downed in the end zone by the receiving team.
Check out the video below for more information about the kickoff change.
In addition, owners also voted to expand reviewable plays to include a disqualification of a player. This now allows the Instant Replay system to correct an officiating error that resulted in the disqualification of a player.