On May 21, potential rule changes and bylaws for the upcoming 2020 NFL season were sent out to teams, with owners set to meet virtually on May 28 to vote on the proposals.
This year, there were just 3 rule changes approved and 1 bylaw that passed, which is a relatively small number of changes. To compare, in 2019, 7 rule changes and 6 bylaws were passed.
3 NFL Rule Changes That Passed
1. Automatic Reviews: This one isn’t a new rule, but in 2019, automatic replay review was expanded temporarily to include “scoring plays and turnovers that were negated by a foul” and “any successful or unsuccessful Try attempt.” Now, in 2020, that rule change is permanent.
2. Kickoff and Punt Return Protection: This rule more so applies to punt returns. Remember how every so often, a gunner could time things up perfectly so that right after the return man fielded a punt, they would drill them for a big hit? That is now illegal if you are hitting the punt returner in the head/neck area, or leading with your helmet on the tackle. Gunners can still go for the legs; but it’s probably advisable to lower the shoulder and hit them in the midsection. That’s tough to time up, though.
3. Delay of Game Manipulation: We saw the Patriots, Titans, and some other teams learn about and then start to manipulate the delay of game penalties last year to bleed more clock near the end of a game. We knew that loophole would be closed this year, and sure enough, it is. The official ruling says, “if the the offense commits a dead-ball foul during the fourth quarter or overtime that is accepted, [the clock will remain stopped].”
1 NFL Bylaw That Passed
1. Short-Term IR Increased: The number of players that may be designated for return from injured reserve has been increased from two to three players. The language has also been updated to clarify that the player has to wait eight games, not eight weeks, to return to action (bye weeks during the regular season do not count toward time missed).
- 4th-and-15 as an Onside Kick: Because onside kicks are so unsuccessful these days, it was proposed that the NFL allow teams to “go for it” on a 4th-and-15 situation as an alternative to kicking an onside kick. While it drew some more healthy discussion, it still did not pass and will be re-visited during the 2021 offseason.
- Limited Sky Judge: As discussed here, a Sky Judge official will be pilot-tested during the 2020 preseason. However, they will only be limited to game administration aspects, not penalty enforcement.
- Goodbye to Reviewing Pass Interference: There was a one-year experiment in 2019 to allow reviews for pass interference calls. Usually, those rules are voted on the following year to make them permanent. However, it was such a disaster last year in its implementation, that it was not even a proposal in 2020. Therefore, this coming season, we will be back to no one being able to challenge or review pass interference calls.