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NFL tables onside kick alternative, approves a few other rule changes

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The NFL will have a few new rules in 2020.

New York Giants v Detroit Lions Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The NFL owners have agreed on new rule changes for the 2020 season, from reviews to safety to clock shenanigans.

Of the proposed changes last week, only three of them were approved:

Replay reviews on scoring plays have become the norm in the NFL, and the Philadelphia Eaglesproposal aimed to make that permanent. Although the pass interference reviews implemented last year are not returning, this far less controversial change will likely be another good step forward for video review.

The defenseless player protection rule is aimed at limiting the number of devastating hits on players unable to protect or ready themselves, and it will now extend to kickoffs and punt returns. It will be interesting to see how this is called, however. If a punt returner does not signal for a fair catch, are they still liable to get hit? Is that considered defenseless? Hopefully, the NFL will clarify the rules in the coming days.

The game clock manipulation rule gained notoriety last season. Bill Belichick and Mike Vrabel both used intentional penalties to burn up even more clock in order to limit a possible comeback. It was a loophole in the rulebook that is now properly closed.

On top of this, an additional player is now permitted to return from the Injured Reserve:

Meanwhile, the controversial and oft-discussed onside kick alternative, where the scoring team attempts a fourth-and-15, was shelved, although it could still be revisited in the future. Given the positive feedback from the XFL’s kickoff rule, aimed at maintaining the essence of the kickoff while prioritizing safety, the NFL might look at alternatives in the near future. For now, kickoffs and onside kicks remain the same:

How refereeing is done in the NFL is also being looked into, and one change the league will test this preseason is communication between on-field officials and in-booth officials, albeit in a limited fashion. A proposal to add a “sky judge” was tabled before Thursday’s virtual meeting, but it appears the league is taking steps towards trying it out: