How the NFL Rules Have Changed Over the Years

Founded on August 20, 1920 (nearing its 100th inaugural season), the National Football League (NFL) has its ups and downs–rules-wise. 

A bevvy of rule changes often had effects on both the game and the players. But for the NFL, can you imagine American football–or Super Bowl–if the rules had never changed at all?

Let us look at what changed in the league.

  • The catch rule

The catch rule was–historically–a convoluted rule that can easily confuse the players. In today’s rule, a catch can be completed by controlling the ball, getting two feet in bounds, and making a football move.

The player need not ‘survive the grounds,’ although if he falls butt-first, it is still considered a catch. If the receiver was pushed out of bounds through a defensive play and came down in bounds, the catch is counted.

  • The targeting rule

In 2018, a 15-yard penalty was implemented against players who intentionally lower his head to initiate contact using his helmet. The rule applies to all players on the field regardless of where he is or they are at on the field. 

The violation may also lead to an ejection, though the criteria for ejection are not cleared yet as of this writing. As such, players must come up with new tackling strategies. And speaking of removals, players can be ejected based on non-football acts other than the facemask infraction.

  • The kickoff rule

Considered as the most dangerous part of American football, the NFL Football Operations decided to introduce new kickoff rules. The primary goal is to minimize the dangers involved, including the numbers of players colliding at one another at full speed. 

In the most recent rules, there would be five players on each side of the ball (with at least two players outside the numbers and another two between the numbers and hash). Only three players are permitted to remain outside, but they cannot perform a wedge block. Running start is no longer allowed. Everyone must follow the no-blocking zone as well.

  • The horse-collar tackle rule

In protecting the players further, especially a defenceless receiver, the Roy Williams rule was introduced in 2005. Players have a habit of pulling down another player by grabbing the collar and producing avoidable injuries in the first place.

When a player is taken down in this way, the legs are trapped underneath in an undesirable angle. This may lead to potentially serious injuries from the neck down especially the spine and lower back. 

  • The PAT rule

PAT stands for point(s) after touchdown wherein if a team scores, they won’t be forced to perform a PAT. It means shortening a game since a PAT play would require at least three minutes of the game.

In connection, a player off the line of scrimmage is prohibited from running and jumping over the scrimmage line for blocking a PAT attempt or a field goal.

The defensive and offensive strategies are altered continuously to reflect the teams’ workaround when new changes are introduced. Likewise, there remains the fact that the NFL has become a more pass-friendly league.

The plays are also more specialized now wherein teams plan a game around a specific opponent on the field depending on his play or talent (specialized skill).

Featured Image Source

Have comments? Send us a message!