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List of NFL Rule Changes for the 2018 Season

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Which rules are changing for the 2018 NFL season?

New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Last week, there were 10 rule proposals and 12 bylaws and 5 resolutions that were being voted on at the NFL’s Annual League Meeting. Unfortunately, I was not able to cover each of the proposals prior to the meeting, as I was busy with a conference in Salt Lake City. The results are in, though, so let’s take a look at my summary of what is new:

  • 7 rule proposals passed (1 of which was not in the initial list of proposals)
  • 9 bylaws passes
  • 1 resolution passed

7 NFL Rule Changes That Passed

The number in parenthesis indicates the original rule proposal number.

  1. Touchbacks to the 25-Yard Line (#1): This was a rule change already in existence, but now it has been made permanent: on kickoffs, touchbacks will be brought to the 25 yard line.
  2. The New Catch Rule (#2): There will still no doubt be some confusion over what is and isn’t a catch, but the language in the NFL rulebook was altered to help simplify the rule. Making the catch is a three-step process. First, the player must secure control (i.e. initially catch the pass without some big-time bobble). Then, he must get both feet down. Those are the two aspects that remain the same. The third and new aspect tries to make it more clear that an attempt at a football move completes the third part of the catch process, such as tucking the ball away, extending it over the goal line or first down marker, taking an additional step, turning upfield, or trying to stiffarm an opponent.
  3. Illegally Batting a Ball (#3): Previously, illegally batting a ball would be a 10-yard penalty only. Now, if it happens during a scrimmage down, it will be a 10-yard penalty and a loss of down. This now matches the penalty for illegally kicking a ball, which makes sense to have them be consistent.
  4. Officiating Members Can Issue Disqualifications (#7): Let’s say there is a scrum where punches are thrown, but the on-field officials couldn’t quite see who threw a punch or did something flagrant to warrant a disqualification. Now, a designated member of the officiating department will be able to radio in to the officials and tell them to disqualify a player for a flagrant act. However, it must be based on what the official saw on a TV broadcast replay, and it must be issued prior to the next snap of the ball (no retroactive disqualifications).
  5. Removing the Formality XP or 2-Pointer (#9): Let’s say the Browns were losing 24-20, and there are 0:02 left in the entire game. Cleveland throws a touchdown pass with 0:00 leading, and are now up 26-24. In the past, even though a win was guaranteed, Cleveland would still have to either kick an extra point or attempt a two-pointer. Now, in this case, the game will be over without attempting anything -- but only if that team won the game. If they lost (i.e. the touchdown didn’t matter), I believe they’d still have to complete a try.
  6. Overtime Formality (#10): In the past, let’s say the Browns scored a field goal on the first possession of overtime to go up 23-20. On the other team’s first possession, they throw an interception or fumble the ball to Cleveland. In the past, the game is basically over. But the new rule says that the down itself has to finish. So if Cleveland intercepts a pass, and then the opponent strips Cleveland and returns it all the way in the same down, they can still win the game. Like that’ll ever happen.
  7. Crown of the Helmet Rule (#11): This will end up being the biggest rule change in my opinion, and it has a lot of ambiguous language to it that is supposed to be clarified more at the next league meetings in May. The Trent Richardson “crown of helmet” rule in open field was never really enforced, but now the language has been change to be much lower. “If a player lowers his head to make a tackle, it’s a 15-yard penalty.” I mean, I like trying to get people to tackle better, but this grey area and how often it happens (just by instinct) will be something to watch.

We will get to the nine bylaw changes and resolution change in another article.