NFL Kickoffs Getting An Overhaul In 2018
Kickoffs aren't being outlawed in the NFL (yet) but heading into the 2018 season they will be heavily regulated in an attempt to make the play safer for all involved.
Seven new rules will take effect this season surrounding the kickoff, everything from player lineups to eliminating the wedge block are all going to be new sights ahead of the new season.
Three of those rules surround where players will lineup in the lead up to the kick. The kicking team now has to place five players on each side of the ball, and there must be at least two players outside the numbers and between the numbers and hash on each side. Additionally, kicking team members must lineup within one yard of the ball spot (usually 35 yard line barring penalties). In other words, no running starts.
The receiving team also has a new formation rule to adhere to before the kick. Eight of the 11 players must be within a 15 yard "setup zone" that starts at the 10 yard gap between teams on a kickoff. On a regular kickoff this will be between the receiving team's 40 and opponent's 45. Only three receivers will be allowed to be outside of this setup zone.
The 10 yards between the two teams is now a "no blocking zone" until the ball has touched either another player (not including the kick) or the ground.
When the ball is kicked, no wedge blocks (blocks of two players side by side to form a shield for a returner) will be allowed starting in 2018.
Was that a lot to handle? Don't worry the NFL Operations twitter account made a handy visualization video to help out fans.