Advertisement
Share

NFL clarifies rules proposal on alternate for onside kicks

Rams punter Johnny Hekker executes an onside kick during a game against the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 15 in Arlington, Texas.
(Roger Steinman / Associated Press)

The NFL has clarified the rules proposal for an alternative to an onside kick.

The Philadelphia Eagles have proposed allowing a fourth-and-15 scrimmage play from the 25-yard line of the team kicking off. It can only be done in regulation time, and be used twice. Should the team attempting the play succeed, it would keep the ball. If the defense is successful, its offense gets the ball at the spot where the play is blown dead.

A regular onside kick would remain an option.

Team owners will discuss and possibly vote on the Eagles’ suggestion on Thursday during a league-wide conference call. The idea is to virtually eliminate the onside kick — considered more dangerous than most other football plays — while offering a substitute that could be exciting and game changing.

Advertisement

Jalen Ramsey surpassed the Rams’ expectations last season and continued to establish himself as perhaps the NFL’s top cornerback. He expects a big contract extension.

Recent rules changes regarding alignments on onside kicks and run-ups for kicking team players have turned the exercise into something of a relic attempted only in desperate situations. In the last two years, less than 10% of onside kicks succeeded.

After the kicking team notifies the referee it wants to attempt the fourth-and-15 play, it would need to reach its 40-yard line to convert. However, penalties incurred on the previous play, such as a field goal or extra point, would apply and would change the line of scrimmage for the play, which would remain a fourth-and-15 attempt.

Once a team has opted for the scrimmage play, that decision sticks — unless the team calls a timeout before running the fourth-and-15 play. It could then notify the referee it has decided to kick off instead, and do so. That would seem like a waste of a timeout.

If the offense has run the alternative play and been flagged for a penalty, the yardage is marked off and another scrimmage play is run. Switching to kicking off instead is barred in that scenario.

Chris Dufresne, a respected authority on college sports, had 40-year L.A. Times career.

The game clock would not run for the play, though a 25-second play clock would be in force.

Some people within the NFL find the proposal gimmicky, and there’s some support for trying it in the preseason as an experiment, then evaluating its impact. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s uncertain if the NFL will have a preseason or what it would look like.


Advertisement