National Football League adopts rule changes for 2020 season

Ross Houston
May 29, 2020

Changing the play to an untimed down makes it more exciting regardless of who's winning: It both prevents leading teams from using it to run the rest of the time off the clock, and also gives trailing teams more time to mount a comeback.

With successful onside kicks having become rare since the NFL's implementation of safety-related rule changes for kickoffs before the 2018 season, many within the league were looking for another option - particularly for a team trailing late in a game - and owners were thought to be more receptive this time around.


There was also the concern if there were only a few seconds left, it wouldn't give an National Football League team that behind a fair chance at a comeback.

For example, a team could convert from the fourth-and-15 play for 30 yards, which would take them to their opponent's 45-yard line, and at that point, they'd get one play with one second left. Tweaks to the onside kick will remain under consideration. Onside kick success rates have plummeted over the past two seasons since kickoff rules were changed.


(3) The ball will be spotted on the kicking team's 25-yard line, and the kicking team will possess the ball with the down and distance being fourth and 15 (Line to gain is the kicking team's 40-yard line). If a team had gotten a first down, it would have retained possession and its drive would have continued at the point at which the play ended.

(7) If the offense is penalized on its one scrimmage down (fourth and 15), the offense can not elect to kick off after the penalty is enforced.


Among the tabled proposals was the alternative to the onside kick that would have allowed a team an opportunity to maintain possession of the ball after scoring. Example: the kicking team may not elect to kick after incurring a holding penalty on its one scrimmage down. Teams would also have the option to attempt the traditional onside kick.

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