Here are the new NFL rules and updates of existing ones for the 2018 season

The NFL has implemented new rules and updated old ones for the 2018 season.
(Jeff Haynes / Associated Press)

New year, new rules. Here’s what you need to know about the NFL’s new rules:

What is a catch?

The league has changed the standard for a catch for a forward pass or interception in the field of play, at the sideline, or in the end zone, if a player who is inbounds:

a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms, prior to the ball touching the ground; and


b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and

c) after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, performs any football act (e.g. tuck the ball away, extend it toward or over the goal line or line to gain, take an additional step, turn upfield, or avoid or ward off an opponent), or he maintains control of the ball long enough to do so.

Note 1: Movement of the ball does not automatically result in loss of control.

Note 2: If a player, who satisfied (a) and (b), but has not satisfied (c), contacts the ground and loses control of the ball, it is an incomplete pass if the ball hits the ground before he regains control, or if he regains control out of bounds.

Note 3: A receiver is considered a player in a defenseless posture throughout the entire process of the catch and until the player is capable of avoiding or warding off the impending contact of an opponent.

Note 4: If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control.

Note 5: If a player, who is in possession of the ball, is held up and carried out of bounds by an opponent before both feet or any part of his body other than his hands touches the ground inbounds, it is a completed or intercepted pass.


Other rule changes:

Helmet rule

Makes lowering the head and initiating contact with the helmet a foul.

Kickoff formation

Modifies rules for a free kick formation and for blocking on a free kick.


The playing rule that changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line is now permanent.

Illegal batting and kicking

Makes the penalties for illegal batting and kicking the same (loss of 10 yards).


Authorizes the senior vice president of officiating to instruct on-field game officials to disqualify a player for a flagrant non-football act when a foul for that act is called on the field.

Scoring at the end of regulation

Eliminates the requirement that a team who scores a touchdown at the end of regulation of a game kick the extra point or go for a two-point conversion if it would not affect the outcome of the game.


Provides that in overtime, if the team that possesses the ball first scores a field goal in its initial possession and the second team loses possession by an interception or a fumble, the down will be permitted to run to its conclusion, including awarding the points scored by either team during the down.