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Owners approve changes to kickoffs

Kickoffs have been tweaked again in 2018, as the NFL continues to try and make the game's most dangerous play safer.

League owners approved a series of changes this week, the biggest being the elimination of a running start for the kickoff team as a way to try and limit full-speed collisions.

Players on the kicking team cannot line up more than one yard from the point of the kickoff. The previous rule allowed players to line up five yards from the restraining line (35-yard line), allowing them to have more of a running start before the kick.

At least five players on the kickoff team must be on either side of the ball, at least two players must be lined up outside the yard-line number, and two players between the inbounds lines and the yard-line number.

As for the return team, eight players must be in the 15-yard "setup zone" (between their own 40-yard line and opponents 45-yard line) prior to the kickoff with only three players remaining outside that zone. It essentially moves players on return team closer to the ball to reduce speed and space on the play.

Wedge blocks are also not permitted any longer. Only players who were initially lined up in the setup zone may come together in a double-team block.

Until the ball is touched or hits the ground, no player on the receiving team may cross the restraining line or initiate a block against the kicking team in the 15-yard area from where the ball is kicked. This forces blockers on the receiving team to run back and block. The goal is to eliminate the jump-set or attack block and decrease high-speed collisions.

The ball is now dead if it is not touched by the receiving team and touches the ground in the end zone. There is no need for a player to down the ball in the end zone to initiate a touchback.

The owners also approved a proposal that makes disqualification of players now reviewable.

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