NFL owners approve three playing rules, but table 4th and 15 proposal

May 28, 2020 - 8:55 pm

NFL owners on Thursday approved three playing rules and one bylaw change, while tabling the fourth down-and-15 alternative to onside kicks.

They approved making permanent a rule that requires replay review of any scoring play or turnover, even if there is a penalty on the play negating the score or turnover. This rule was actually instituted last year on a one-year basis. It was made permanent Thursday. All scoring plays and turnovers were already automatically reviewed. Previously, those plays were not reviewed if there was a penalty on the play negating it.

Also approved was expanding the defenseless player-protection rule to include kick or punt returners who are in possession of the ball but have not had time to avoid impending contact of an opponent. This means "gunners" on punt teams will have to be careful not to hit a returner as soon as he touches the ball, before he's had time to avoid the contact.

The third rule change involves the game clock. If the offense commits a dead-ball foul in the fourth quarter or overtime, the clock now won't re-start until the next snap. Previously, it wold re-start after the ball was reset to its new position upon enforcement of the penalty and the official signaling ready to play. This rule prevents teams from manipulating the game clock by committing multiple dead-ball fouls while the clock is running.

The bylaw change is one that has continued to evolve and expand. Starting this year, the number of players that may be designated for return from Injured Reserve will increase from two to three. For many years, once a player was placed on I.R., his season was over. In 2012, the league approved allowing for one player to return after eight weeks. In 2017, that was expanded to two players, and now will be three players eligible to return.

Owners tabled the fourth-down-and-15 alternative to onside kicks after it was determined there wasn't enough support to put it to an official vote. It's expected to be revisited at a later time.

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