NFL New Rules

The following rule changes were approved for the 2016 NFL season at the owner’s meeting on March 22, 2016:

  • Allowing the offensive and defensive play callers on the coaching staffs to use the coach-to-player communication system regardless of whether they are on the field or in the coaches’ booth.
  • Permanently adopting the extra-point rules enacted in the 2015 NFL season. Extra point kicks will be from the 15 yard line, and defenses can return blocked PAT’s, fumbles or interceptions on two-point tries for a two-point defensive conversion.
  • Outlaw all chop blocks anywhere on the field. Previously the chop block was legal when an offensive lineman chops a defensive player “while the defensive player is physically engaged above the waist by the blocking attempt of another offensive teammate”.
  • Expand the definition of a “horse-collar tackle” to include tackles where a player is grabbed by the jersey at or above the name plate and dragged to the ground.
  • Making the act of calling time-out when not permitted to do so subject to a delay-of-game penalty (5 yards).
  • Changing from a five-yard penalty to a loss of down when a receiver goes out of bounds and comes back in to illegally touch a forward pass.
  • Eliminating multiple spots of enforcement for a double foul committed after a change of possession.

The following changes were approved for only the 2016 NFL season at the owner’s meeting on March 23, 2016 (they are both subject to become permanent rules or scrapped in the 2017 NFL season):

  • Moving the touchback spot after kickoffs and other free kicks to the 25-yard line, similar to the NCAA rule adopted in the 2012 season (a touchback after a turnover or punt will still be placed on the 20-yard line). The goal for this rule change is to decrease the number of kickoff returns: kick returners may be more reluctant to bring the ball out from the end zone because of the greater risk of being tackled before reaching the 25-yard line. NFL officials concede that this may in fact increase kickoff returns because kickers may instead attempt to pin returners inside the 10-yard line.
  • Players committing two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the same game will be automatically ejected from the game. This was in response to New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. committing three personal fouls in one game against the Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman without being ejected. This change is being referred to as the “Odell Beckham Rule”. NFL officials, however, concede that this new rule would not have ejected Beckham since he committed personal fouls and not unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

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