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2021 NFL rule change proposals aim to modify overtime rules, jersey number options

Related: Bill Belichick reportedly in favor of changing NFL overtime rules

NFL: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL offseason is the time for change in the NFL. But while free agency, draft and trade window dominate the headlines, the offseason also gives the league an opportunity to evaluate its rule book and possibly make modifications.

Those changes can either be initiated by the clubs or the competition committee, and will be voted on in ownership vote. This year, 11 such proposals are on the table — none of which by the New England Patriots; three have come from the committee, seven from at least one team, and one in a joint proposal by three separate parties.

All in all, the proposals look as follows:

1. By Competition Committee; to amend Rule 16, to eliminate overtime in the preseason. Even though overtime has been reduced from four to three games with the regular season going to a 17-game format, it would not be a surprise to see this proposal get voted on.

2. By Competition Committee; to amend Rule 6, Section 1, Article 3, for one year only, to establish a maximum number of players in the setup zone. Under the current set of rules, at least eight players on a kickoff-receiving team must be positioned in an area between the restraining line up front and 15 yards behind it. Under this proposal, no more than nine players would be allow to line up in this so-called “setup zone.” This would put more people deep, and could create a numbers advantage for the kicking team on onside kicks.

3. By Competition Committee; to amend Rule 12, Section 2, Article 4, to expand the prohibition on blocking below the waist by offensive and defensive players on scrimmage downs when contact occurs beyond five yards on either side of the line of scrimmage and more than two yards outside of either offensive tackle, by Competition Committee. If changed, this rule would expand the tackle box on either side to create a tight end box in which blocking below the waist rules would be enforced — and thus create a bigger area of scrutiny on such blocks.

4. By Competition Committee, Coaches Subcommittee, and Baltimore; to amend Rule 15, Section 3, Article 9, and Rule 19, Section 2, to permit the Replay Official and designated members of the Officiating department to provide certain objective information to the onfield officials. Given that three separate entities proposed this rule change — giving the replay official increased responsibilities and the ability to help on some calls — it would not be a surprise to see this one get adopted.

5. By Chicago; to amend Rule 11, Section 3, Article 3, to ensure the enforcement of all accepted penalties committed by either team during successive Try attempts. Long story short: if you get flagged on back-to-back extra point or two-point conversion attempts, the penalty yardage if you decide to switch between the two will be applied either way.

6. By Los Angeles Rams; to amend Rule 8, Section 1, Article 2, to add a loss of down for a second forward pass from behind the line and for a pass thrown after the ball returns behind the line. Previously, a second forward pass from behind the line of scrimmage was five yards. The Rams want to add a loss of down to this.

7. By Kansas City Chiefs; to amend Rule 5, Section 1, Article 2, to expand jersey number options for certain positions. One of the more interesting proposals, Kansas City is looking to modify jersey numbers as follows:

  • Defensive backs: 1-49
  • Running backs, fullbacks, tight ends, H-backs, wide receivers: 1-49 and 80-89
  • Offensive linemen: 50-79
  • Linebackers: 1-59 and 90-99

The other positions — quarterbacks, punters, place kickers, defensive linemen — would not see a change in which numbers they would be allowed to wear.

8. By Baltimore and Philadelphia; to amend Rule 16, Section 1, to change the options for winner of an overtime coin toss, and create a true sudden death format. The Ravens’ and Eagles’ joint-proposal was already detailed earlier this offseason: the team that wins the overtime coin toss picks a spot on the field where the ball will be placed to start the fifth period, while the other club chooses whether to play offense or defense, or vice versa. A true sudden death — i.e. first score wins — is also proposed as part of this.

9. By Baltimore; to amend Rule 16, Section 1, to change the options for winner of an overtime coin toss, eliminate sudden death format, and eliminate overtime in the preseason. While this proposal includes the same “spot or choose” option after the coin toss as proposal No. 8, it also would a) eliminate overtime in the preseason and b) make overtime a normal albeit shorter fifth period.

Under this proposal, overtime would be 7 minutes and 30 seconds as opposed to 15 minutes. Each team would have two timeouts at its disposal. In the regular season, a tied game at the end of the extra period would result in a tie; in the playoffs, the game would continue with a sixth half-quarter, and so on until a winner is determined. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has already expressed support for such an idea in the past.

10. By Philadelphia; to amend Rule 6, Section 1, Article 1, to permit a team to maintain possession of the ball after a score by substituting one offensive play (4th and 15 from the kicking team’s 25-yard line) for an onside kickoff attempt. The Eagles already proposed this idea last year, but it was voted down. The basic idea behind it is that it would give teams the option to run one offensive play in lieu of an onside kick.

11. By Baltimore; to amend Rule 19, Section 1, Article 1, to add an eighth official who is positioned somewhere other than the playing field, with full communication to on-field officials and access to a television monitor. More officials could result in better communication, could result in better calls.

As with all rule change proposals the 11 outlined above will need to get at least 24 out of 32 votes during the ownership meeting. There is always a chance that decisions get tabled until later in the year, or that modified proposals get adopted.