NFL owners table onside kick alternative proposal for second straight year

NFL owners tabled a proposal Thursday that would have given teams an alternative to the onside kick, the second consecutive year they have decided against addressing what has become a thorny issue.

The proposal, submitted by the Philadelphia Eagles, was intended to alleviate the difficulty teams have experienced in converting traditional onside kicks since the NFL changed its kickoff rules in 2018. Since then, teams have recovered 10.5% of onside kicks, compared with 16.3% during the five previous seasons.

NFL owners once again tabled a proposal on an alternative to the onside kick. Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire

If passed, the rule would have given teams two opportunities per game to replace a kickoff with one offensive down from their own 25-yard line following a score. If the offensive team gained at least 15 yards, it would retain possession. If not, the other team would get the ball at the spot where the play was blown dead.

But the NFL’s competition committee did not endorse the rule, just as it did not endorse a similar proposal last season from the Denver Broncos. Those opposed felt it was too gimmicky relative to the natural flow of the game. But the current kickoff rules have undoubtedly impacted the ability to overcome late deficits. Teams have attempted an expected onside kick in 104 games over the past two seasons. They are 0-104 in those games, according to NFL data.

During a virtual conference call Thursday, owners did approve three rule changes and one new bylaw:

* They expanded defenseless player protection to kickoff and punt returners.

* They made permanent the expansion of replay into scoring plays or turnovers that have been negated by foul.

* They closed a loophole that had allowed the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans to run excessive time off the clock by committing multiple dead-ball fouls last season.

* They increased the number of players who can be designated for return from injured reserve to three. The limit had been two.

Owners are also discussing whether to experiment during the preseason with expanded communication between the replay assistant and the referee.

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