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2011 NFL Rule Changes: Illegal Hits, Kickoff Changes

Although the NFL is in the midst of a lockout of its players, that isn't stopping the league from considering a variety of rule changes for the 2011 season. The league held a conference call to discuss these potential rules. While they are not yet in place, they will eventually be voted on by the owners. Some of these potential rules include:

  • Increase chance of suspension for suspension for flagrant hits (as opposed to just the increase in fines in 2010).
  • Move kickoff to 35-yard line, and bringing touchback out to 25. No changes for touchbacks on any other plays (e.g. punts), with ball coming out to 20.
  • Make all scoring plays reviewable. Replay official would order replays on any touchdowns, field goals, safeties and extra points without the coaches needing to challenge. Similar to current system for final two minutes of each half and overtime.
  • Outlawing wedge on kickoffs; all blocking wedges were reduced to two players in 2009.

The first one is fairly unclear so I'm not sure what the plan is going forward. Hopefully it's more concrete than making adjustments on the fly like they did with the increased fines around the league. The second rule is an interesting one given the safety concerns in general around the league. In the first link above Joel Thorman mentioned that some teams actually wanted to consider eliminating kickoffs altogether. That would certainly be extreme. Do you think that's a good idea? Given the current roles of special teams players (beyond just kickers), that could cost some folks jobs and I'd imagine the NFLPA would not be too pleased about that.

I'm intrigued by the third rule about making all scoring plays reviewable. I'm not clear as to whether it is an automatic review or if it's left to the referees' discretion. For the sake of consistency it should be an automatic review. Otherwise subjectivity could easily creep into things. Do you think there should be automatic review of plays?

Finally, the NFL did indicate a full regular season schedule would be released in mid-April as in years past. That could make for fun exercises looking at games that could potentially end up cancelled. Based on the layout of the 2011 schedule that could benefit some teams more than others.