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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Owners Will Consider Changes to Kickoff, Challenge Rules at League Meeting

Among the rule changes to be considered this year at the NFL's Annual Meeting in Orlando is a revised kickoff structure, additions to what rulings on the field can be challenged and the banning of the hip-drop tackle


The NFL will conduct its Annual League Meeting in Orlando from March 24-27. As is the case each offseason, one important order of business during the meeting will be the consideration of proposals to change the rules of the game. This year, several of those proposals involve kickoffs and replay challenges.

On Wednesday, the league distributed a list of 10 proposals that will be discussed; all were submitted by individual clubs or the competition committee. The Detroit Lions, for instance, would like to make one change in how replay challenges are administered. Under the current rule, a team only gets a third challenge in a game if both of its first two are successful. The Lions propose that a team gets a third challenge in a game if just one of it's first two are successful.

The Indianapolis Colts, meanwhile, want to make an addition to the rulings that can be challenged. Specifically, the Colts want a coach (or a replay official if its within the final two minutes) to be able to challenge any penalty that is called.

The Competition Committee also wants to add the ruling of whether a quarterback is down by contact or out of bounds before the pass is thrown to the list of reviewable rulings.

The Philadelphia Eagles are trying again with a proposal that has been considered before but not adopted, as they want to introduce an alternative to the onside kick when a trailing team wants to retain possession after a score. The idea is to put the ball at the 20-yard line of what would be the kicking team and allow the offense to attempt to convert a fourth-and-20. A team would only be permitted to try this up to two times in a game. This would not eliminate the traditional onside kick but instead provide another option.

Team owners will also be considering an elaborate overhaul of how kickoffs are structured, a proposal that is intended to create more kickoff returns without also negatively impacting player safety. Under this proposal, the kicker would be alone at his 35-yard line while the 10 players in coverage will line up at the opponent's 40. Most of the return team will be lined up at the 35-yard line, and none of the players in either of those areas can move from their spots until the ball is caught or hits the ground.

The area between the receiving team's goal line and the 20-yard line is called the "landing zone" and will be the target for opposing kickers; any ball that lands or is caught in this zone must be returned. If the ball lands in or beyond the end zone on the fly it's a touchback and the ball comes out to the receiving team's 35. If the ball first hits the ground in the landing zone and then goes into the end zone, it's a touchback and the ball comes out to the receiving team's 20. Any ball that hits the ground short of the landing zone is treated like a kick out of bounds and the ball is spotted at the receiving team's 40-yard line.

If the new kickoff rules are approved, it would be for the 2024 season only, after which the owners would decide if they wanted to make the rule permanent or not.

One rule change proposal that already seems to be a matter of contention between players and the Competition Committee is the potential banning of the hip-drop tackle. In this type of tackle, the defender grabs the ballcarrier with both arms then drops his body weight onto the ballcarrier's lower leg(s). A penalty thrown for this type of tackle would result in a loss of 15 yards and an automatic first down.

The owners will also consider seven proposed changes to league bylaws. These are generally concerned with procedure rules, such as how roster moves have made. The Lions, for instance, want to eliminate the rule that a player has to spend at least one day on the 53-man roster before he can be eligible to return from a reserve list. Currently, if a player is put on injured reserve before the final cuts he has to miss the entire season.

The Bills also want to expand the number of players who can be elevated from the practice squad for a game from two to three, but the third one would specifically to bring up a quarterback to serve as the emergency third QB. The Competition Committee piggy-backed off that by proposing that a third quarterback can be elevated an unlimited number of times during the season. Currently, any specific player can only be elevated three times during the regular season.

The Lions were also one of six teams to propose that the trading deadline be moved back in the season, to the Tuesday after the 10th week of games.

These proposals may or may not be resolved at the March meetings. They could be passed, voted down or tabled, and the league will conduct another set of meetings in Nashville in late May where the proposals can be considered again.

View photos from Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield's signing day and media press conference at AdventHealth Training Center on Wednesday, March 13, 2024

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