NEW ORLEANS -- NFL owners voted to alter rules for kickoffs and instant replay next season but tabled a proposal that would have expanded language changes in the rule involving penalties against defenseless players.
The rule that moves kickoffs from the 30 to the 35-yard line passed 26-6, while the rule to have the booth replay official review all scoring plays passed 30-2. Overall, four of the five proposals up for vote passed.
The other tradeoff by the committee to get the vote passed was not changing the spotting of a touchback. Touchbacks will still be spotted at the 20-yard line. The committee had suggested moving touchbacks to the 25.
The final element of the change in the kickoff rule was adjusting the running starts for the coverage teams before the kickoff. Before, coverage players could get a 10- to 15-yard start before the kicker makes contact with the ball. Under the new rule, coverage players will only get a 5-yard running start. That was what the competition committee had recommended.
The other major change involved instant replay. The booth replay official will now have to confirm all scoring plays, saving coaches from using challenges on plays in the end zone. To pass that proposal, the committee altered its suggestion by not changing the number of challenges for coaches. Now, coaches can make two challenges a game, but if they are correct on both, they would have access to a third challenge. The committee wanted to eliminate the third challenge.
In a surprising move, the NFL tabled the expanded language changes in the rule involving penalties against defenseless players. Last year, the NFL cracked down with heavy fines and possible suspension for hits on defenseless players. The competition committee wanted to spell out those rules with eight explanations of what would be considered finable hits on defenseless players.
Though that rule is expected to eventually pass, more time was needed for the language.