National Football League shelves onside kick alternative, passes 3 rule changes

New NFL onside kick alternative tweaked ahead of vote

With successful onside kicks having become rare since the NFL's implementation of safety-related rule changes for kickoffs before the 2018 season, many within the league were looking for another option - particularly for a team trailing late in a game - and owners were thought to be more receptive this time around.

The biggest change to the rules proposal is that it will now be an untimed down.

Teams now can not manipulate the game clock with multiple dead-ball fouls, a loophole in the rule book that numerous teams utilized late in games in 2019.

Two competition committee proposals approved are an expansion of defenseless player protection to a kick or punt returner who is in possession of the ball but who has not had time to avoid or ward off the impending contact of an opponent. Under the original proposal, the play was going to follow normal National Football League timing rules, but now, the clock won't move at all if a team decides to attempt the fourth-and-15 play. Incorporates interpretations applicable to bye weeks during the regular season and postseason.


NFL teams converted 16 of 60 fourth-and-15 attempts over the past 10 seasons, according to the NFL Network, for a success rate of 26.7 percent.

(3) The ball will be spotted on the kicking team's 25-yard line, and the kicking team will possess the ball with the down and distance being fourth and 15 (Line to gain is the kicking team's 40-yard line). Also, all normal rules would apply to the play, so if a defense got called for defensive holding, the five-yard penalty would result in an automatic first down for the offense. If the defense stops the offense, the defense assumes possession at the dead-ball spot.

(8) Scrimmage kicks are prohibited.

The other tweak added to the rule proposal is that the onside kick alternative can't be used in overtime (The fourth-and-15 option will only be allowed during regulation).

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