I never really got into the XFL the first time around. The changes from the NFL were a bit too extreme for me, which is probably why it failed so spectacularly!
But this time, it makes a lot of sense! Here are a few of the rules changes you should know about.
The highlights: No touchbacks, no extra point kicking,
- After a touchdown, the team has the option of running a play from the 2, 5, or 10-yard line, worth 1, 2, or 3 points respectively. The team must run an offensive play and no kicking plays are allowed.
- If the defense is able to cause a turnover and return the ball to the opponent’s end zone, the resulting score is equal to the number of points the offense was attempting to score on its PAT.
Current NFL Rule
- In the NFL, teams can elect whether to go for a kicked extra point or go for a 2-point conversion.
- The NFL has a near automatic play with its extra-point kick. The XFL has created excitement by replacing a kick with a play from scrimmage. To provide even more excitement, we have added the opportunity for a 3-point play, which means that an 18-point deficit is still a two-possession game. Fans have told the XFL that the 3-point play creates more strategy and innovation for the coaches.
- The kicker kicks from the 25-yard line and must kick the ball in the air and in play between the opponent’s 20-yard line and the end zone.
- The coverage team lines up on the return side 35-yard line and the return team lines up on the 30-yard line. Each team must have exactly 3 players outside the hash marks on both sides of the ball and cannot move until the ball is caught by the returner.
- Out of bounds kicks and kicks that fall short of the 20-yard line will result in an illegal procedure penalty, taking the ball all the way out to the kicking team’s 45 yard line.
- Players can move when the ball is touched by the returner or 3 seconds after the ball touches the ground (when the official waves his hand down).
- If the ball is kicked into the end zone and is downed it is a “Major” touchback and the ball is placed at the return side 35-yard line.
- If the ball bounces in bounds and then out of the end zone or is downed in the end zone, the ball is placed at the return side 15-yard line.
- If a player on the return team touches the ball and it goes out of bounds, the ball is spotted where it went out of bounds.
- If a team wishes to run an onside kick, it must indicate this to the official before the play and the two teams will be permitted to line up using traditional NFL rules (i.e. 10 yards apart from the kicking team). There will be no surprise onside kicks.
Current NFL/College Rule
- The NFL kicks off from the 35-yard line, with 5 players on each side of the ball. The ball can be kicked out of the end zone for a touchback or out of bounds and placed at the 40-yard line.
- College also kicks off from the 35-yard line and allows return teams to take a touchback for any kickoff fair caught inside the 25-yard line.
- In college football, kickoffs are only 6% of plays but lead to 21% of concussions. To eliminate the safety issues with kickoffs, the NCAA and NFL created more opportunities for touchbacks. The increase in touchbacks naturally leads to fewer returns which means fewer meaningful plays. The XFL’s proposed rule change will encourage more kick returns while making the play less dangerous by eliminating the 30-yard sprint to collision.
- Overtime shall consist of 5 “Rounds”, staged in alternating single-play possessions as is customary in NHL shootouts or MLS penalty kicks. A “Round” will consist of one offensive play per team. Each possession starts at the opponent’s 5-yard line and the offensive team has one play to score. The team with more points after 5 rounds is the winner.
- If a team has been mathematically eliminated before all 5 rounds have been completed, the game ends immediately (e.g. If Team A scores on its first 3 attempts and Team B is stopped on its first 3 attempts, then no subsequent plays are necessary).
- If teams are tied after 5 rounds, then rounds continue until one team is leading at the conclusion of a round, and that team will be the winner.
- For scoring purposes, each successful overtime score is worth 2 points.
- The defensive team cannot score. If the offensive team commits a turnover, the play is over immediately.
- If the defensive team commits a penalty, the offensive team will be allowed to re-attempt from the 1-yard line.
- Any subsequent penalty committed by the defensive team on any subsequent play, including in future rounds, will result in a score awarded to the offensive team.
- If the offensive team commits a pre-snap penalty, the ball will be moved back from the original spot, pursuant to regular rules and the play will be re-attempted.
- If the offensive team commits a post-snap penalty, the play will end and no score will be awarded.
- There will be a minimum of 20 seconds between plays with the ball-spotting official working in conjunction with TV and Official Review to signal when the next play begins.
Current NFL Rule
- The NFL has a 10-minute overtime period, where each team must possess, or have the opportunity to possess the ball, unless the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown. A coin toss determines which team will possess the ball first in overtime. If neither team wins in the overtime period, the game ends in a tie.
- NFL overtime can end in a tie and a team’s offense may never see the field. Overtime may also take up to 27 minutes to complete in the NFL. XFL overtime allows both teams to play offense, in under 10 minutes, and always has a winner.
Running Game Clock
- Outside the last 2 minutes of each half, the game clock will run after incompletions and out of bounds plays.
- Aside from incompletions and out of bounds plays, game clock rules outside the last 2 minutes of each half are the same as the NFL.
Current NFL/College Rule
- The NFL game clock stops after every out of bounds play until the Referee re-spots the ball, and on incomplete passes until the next play begins.
- College stops the clock after every 1st down and when a player goes out of bounds until the Referee re-spots the ball. The clock also stops after an incomplete pass until the ball is snapped on the following play.
- The XFL is aiming to play each game in under 3 hours, but with the same amount of total plays. In order to achieve this goal, the XFL is treating incompletions and out of bounds plays the same as plays that end in the field of play.
One Foot Inbounds
To catch a ball means that a player:
- Secures control of a live ball in flight before the ball touches the ground.
- Touches the ground in bounds with any part of his body, and then
- Maintains control of the ball long enough to enable him to perform an act common to the game, i.e., long enough to pitch or hand the ball, advance it, avoid or ward off an opponent, etc.
Current NFL Rule
- To gain possession of a loose ball that has been caught, intercepted, or recovered, a player (a) must have complete control of the ball with his hands or arms and (b) have both feet or any other part of his body, other than his hands, completely on the ground inbounds, and, after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, perform any act common to the game. It is not necessary that he commit such an act, provided that he maintains control of the ball long enough to do so. This rule applies in the field of play, at the sideline, and in the end zone.
- Catches in the NFL are often up to debate because of timing and control of the football. By simplifying the rules that establish control of the football, we are creating easier ways for officials to determine when a catch is made. When interviewing over 100 players on their opinion, players often said “A catch is made with your hands, not your feet.”
- 10-minute break, then back to the action.
That’s just a sampling of some of my favorites. Click here to take a deep dive into the rules of the new XFL.