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NFL Rule Changes 2019: “4th and 15” onside kick alternative rejected by owners

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NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

All of the talk about an onside kick alternative possibly added to the NFL rulebook for 2019 was for naught.

At the annual League Meeting, NFL team owners voted on the Denver Broncos’ proposed rule that would give teams a one-time, 4th quarter option to eschew the kickoff and try and convert 4th and 15 from your own 35. Convert and you keep the ball, fail to convert and obviously the opponents get the ball back.

For the proposal to pass, it needed “yes” votes from 24 of 32 owners. We don’t know how the voting breakdown went, but we do know enough of them rejected it that the onside kick stays, and 4th and 15 is shelved.

In the meantime, here are the rule changes and other amendments (thus far) we will see in 2019: (Via NFL.com)

1. By Competition Committee; Makes permanent the kickoff rule changes that were implemented during the 2018 season.

2. By Competition Committee; Expands protection to a defenseless player.

3. By Competition Committee; Changes the enforcement of double fouls when there is a change of possession.

4. By Competition Committee; Simplifies the application of scrimmage kick rules for missed field goals.

5. By Competition Committee; Allows teams to elect to enforce on the succeeding try or on the succeeding free kick an opponent’s personal or unsportsmanlike conduct foul committed during a touchdown.

Those kickoff rule changes were a major reason for the drop in onside kick recoveries, which was only a shade over 7% for the 2018 season.

On another note, the NFL has eliminated the blindside block, stating that “any forcible contact by the blocker with his head, shoulder or forearm is prohibited.” In other words, I’m pretty sure Golden Tate’s famous hit on Sean Lee in 2012 would now be a penalty.

Also important is the ability to now enforce personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on the point-after attempts in addition to the kickoffs. This means that if you score a touchdown and commit a personal foul/unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and it’s enforced on the PAT, the extra point is moved back to the 30-yard line, or a two-point conversion is done from the 17-yard line instead of the two.

The league isn’t finished with potential new rules for 2019, including the Kansas City Chiefs’ proposal to have both teams possess the ball once in overtime. It has been tabled and it’ll be reviewed again in May.