While the proposed onside kick rule failed to pass, despite the traction that it began to gain before the vote, the league did end up passing a handful of rules virtually. On Thursday during the meeting between league owners, three rules, one bylaw, and a brand usage extension passed.
Off The Field Adjustments
To start this list off, we will begin with the extension. The owners approved the extension of the NFL’s gaming deal with EA Sports, meaning the Madden series will continue to be the main source for NFL video gaming. It will last through at least the 2025 season, with it once again needing approval to be extended at that time.
Another change is the passed bylaw increasing the number of players eligible to return from injured reserve from two to three. This could be huge down the road for a team in the hunt for a Lombardi Trophy, especially if they are struck with injury trouble early on in the season. The decision was a no brainer, as it ensures that teams’ money won’t go to waste.
A further addition to that bylaw is the time a player can return from IR. It was originally eight weeks from the moment they were placed on IR, but now eight games must have elapsed since the date the player was placed IR. This was obviously done so bye weeks would not count towards the number of weeks needed to be removed from the list.
New On The Field Rules
The first of the new on-field rules eliminates a game clock loophole, one that Belichick actually used multiple times last year. Not only in the regular season either, but in the playoffs as well! Of course, it wasn’t just the Patriots that used this loophole, as teams like the Titans did as well. The loophole specifically allowed teams to drain the clock by taking repeated delay of game penalties, something we probably won’t see again.
The next rule triggers an automatic replay for all scoring plays and turnovers that were overruled by a penalty. Plays may also be reviewed regardless of whether a foul is committed on the play that, if accepted, would negate the on-field ruling. This may be the least notable rule that was passed, but we still will see a bit of it in action next season.
The final on-field rule that was passed has to do with players safety, most likely due to all the attention the league has gotten in recent years due to how greatly the game affects the players bodies during and after their careers. It basically expands the defenseless player protections for kick and punt returners by further specifying when the body of the returner is considered defenseless, and when it is considered a “runner”.