XFL Announces Set of Rules Designed to Increase Action Without Sacrificing Player Safety

By Dan Gartland ,

The XFL announced Tuesday the rules it will play by when it relaunches in February. The rules are designed to create excitement, without the dangerous gimmicks that the failed 2001 version of the league will be remembered by. 

The rules are intended to produce more kick returns and dissuade teams from punting by moving the ball to the 35-yard-line on a touchback. A rule allowing two forward passes on a single play (as long as the first pass doesn’t cross the line of scrimmage) is designed to encourage innovative trick plays. The league will also use a shootout-style overtime format. Each major rule change is accompanied by an explanatory video on the league’s website

The kickoff

On the kickoff, 10 players from the receiving team will line up on their own 30-yard line. The kick coverage team lines up five yards away on the 35-yard line. Both teams are required to have three players outside the hashmarks on each side and four between the hashmarks. The close proximity of the two teams is intended to limit the high-speed collisions that contribute the number of concussions that occur on kickoffs. 

The kicker kicks the ball from his own 25-yard line. The kick must travel at least as far as the opponent’s 20-yard line. Neither the coverage team nor the blockers may move until either the ball is caught or three seconds after it hits the ground. 

A kick that hits the ground between the 20-yard line and the goal line and then bounces out of the end zone or is downed in the end zone will result in the receiving team taking possession at its 15-yard line. A kick that travels into the end zone in the air and is downed will be deemed a “major” touchback and the receiving team will take possession at the 35. 

Teams will have to declare ahead of time if they wish to attempt an onside kick, which will be attempted using NFL rules. 

Punts

The XFL’s punt rule eliminates the “coffin corner” punt by spotting any kick that goes out of bounds at the 35-yard line. The same goes for a punt that travels into the end zone. 

Downing a punt deep in an opponent’s territory will also be much more difficult than in the NFL thanks to a rule that prohibits the kicking team’s gunners from crossing the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked. Gunners line up on the line of scrimmage, so they can’t get a running start, either, though they are allowed to move laterally. Inhibiting the downfield progress of the gunners is also intended to limit the number of fair catches. 

Extra points

There will be no kicked extra points in the XFL. Instead, teams will choose from one of three options after scoring a touchdown. They can attempt a play from the 2-yard line for one point, from the 5-yard line for two points or from the 10-yard line for three points. A defensive return of a turnover is worth the same number of points as the offense was attempting to score. 

Double-forward pass

Teams will be permitted to attempt two forward passes on a single play, provided that the ball does not cross the line of scrimmage before the second pass. 

Overtime

Games tied after the conclusion of regulation will advance to a shootout-style overtime period in which each team will have five chances to score on a single play from the five-yard line. 

A penalty on the defense will result in the ball moving up to the 1-yard line. A defensive penalty “on any subsequent play, including in future rounds, will result in a score awarded to the offensive team.”

Other rule changes

  • Only one foot in bounds required for a successful catch
  • A running game clock (outside of the game’s final two minutes)
  • A 25-second play clock (begins rolling once the ball is spotted by the dedicated ball-spotting official)
  • Two timeouts per team per half
  • A 10-minute halftime
  • Coach-to-player communication devices in the helmets of all offensive skill position players (audio of which will be made available to broadcasters)
  • No coaches’ challenges, all reviews come from the replay official
  • Linemen are allowed to be three yards from the line of scrimmage before being flagged for an illegal man downfield (compared to one yard in the NFL)
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