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NFL Rules and Regulations: What Will Change in the 2023 Season?

By: Erin Hughes

Edited By: Kylie Augis

It is no secret the NFL gets its fair share of backlash over different rules, penalties, and especially player safety. During the offseason so far, the NFL and team owners have been committed to reworking some rules to better incorporate the safety of players into the game. The NFL will begin testing new rules that will be implemented for the 2023 season to see whether or not more dramatic changes will need to be made.

The first of these big rule changes has to deal with kickoffs. The rule states that a fair catch on a kickoff will be placed at the 25-yard line regardless of where the ball may be caught. A fair catch on kickoffs was always allowed, but if a team signaled for a fair catch on a kickoff, the team received the ball at the spot of the catch.

Courtesy of Joe Amon, Getty Images

According to ESPN, research has been showing that concussion rates on kickoffs have spiked in the last two seasons, going to almost twice as high as an average offensive or defensive play. Owners had been attempting to amend previous rules regarding the kickoffs specifically, but nothing had been improving. With this new rule, the league is estimating kickoff returns will drop from 38% to 31% and hopefully, concussions on kickoffs will drop by about 15%. Concussions have been a long running problem for the league, especially after a recent data release stating there were 147 concussions in 271 games in 2022, an 18% increase from 2021 as found by NBC Sports Boston.

The NFL has been looking for solutions to reduce concussions specifically on kickoffs for years, and where they got some of their inspiration may be surprising. ESPN states that the league has been closely monitoring the XFL kickoff format, which prevents both kicking and return teams from moving until the returner has fielded the ball. While this may not be as exciting to watch, kickoff returns have become far less violent in the XFL’s two seasons. Not only is the format safer, but it also becomes more dynamic once the returner catches the ball because the kicking and returning teams are both downfield with only five yards between them.

The league will also be implementing a new rule regarding quarterbacks on game days. Owners have approved a rule that will allow teams to designate an emergency quarterback on game days without taking up an active roster spot. After the blunder that was the quarterback situation in San Francisco last season, and during the NFC Championship Game loss to the Eagles, the NFL will now allow teams an emergency third quarterback.

Typically, because an emergency quarterback would have to be counted as an active player on game days, many teams would go into games with only two available quarterbacks, and occasionally use a position player as the third quarterback if the situation warranted. Now, the emergency third quarterback would be eligible to be activated during a game if the rest of the quarterbacks are no longer able to participate because of injury or ejection, but not if a quarterback was benched. If one of the quarterbacks returns to the game, the emergency quarterback must be removed. Again, the NFL is getting some inspiration from the XFL and USFL, both of which have put in similar rules this spring, but the NFL did have this rule in place up until 2010.

Throughout the rest of the offseason, fans and players alike will be waiting to hear what new rules will be put in place for this upcoming 2023 season. While most hope there is not too much change to the game they love, many are just hoping for more player safety.

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