When the NFL owners last met in late March of this year, the league's competition committee decided to change a number of rules. First and foremost is an expansion of instant replay and reviewable plays, but there are a number of other changes that will have an impact on the 2019 NFL season.
The competition committee went all-in on last year's kickoff rule. The rule, which was adopted for just the 2018 season, moved all members of the kickoff coverage team to within one yard of the kickoff spot. The rule also five players to the right of the kicker and five to the left. Two players on each side must be aligned outside the numbers and two more on each side must be between the numbers and the hash marks. The committee decided to make this rule permanent beginning with the 2019 season.
The league continues to address player safety and decided to abolish all blindside blocks. Any player that delivers a blindside block will be assessed a 15-yard personal foul penalty. This continues the league's stance on defenseless players.
Officials will now have the authority to disqualify players for both flagrant football plays and non-flagrant plays. This new rule amends Rule 15, Section 1, Article 5 which is related to non-football acts on the field.
The most noteworthy change of all involves replay. To prevent the situation that resulted in the NFC championship game, the NFL is expanding reviewable plays to include the following:
- offensive or defensive pass interference, whether called or not
- scoring plays and turnovers wiped out by a penalty
- any extra-point or two-point conversion play
The new rule change will be instituted for a one-year experiment. Coaches may challenge these plays outside of the 2:00 minute warning for each half. The booth will review all of these plays within the final two minutes of a half.
Other rules changes for 2019 include the simplification of applying scrimmage kick rules for missed field goals, allowing teams to elect the enforcement of a penalty on a point-after try or a subsequent kickoff, and the enforcement of double fouls when there is a change of possession.
All scrimmage kick rules apply when a missed field goal is touched in the end zone before hitting the ground or if the ball is touched behind the line of scrimmage by either team. Teams now have the option of taking a personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on a touchdown play on the PAT or having it assessed on the ensuing kickoff. When two fouls are called on a play, the last team to possess retains possession at the spot of enforcement. If the spot of enforcement is the end zone, the ball is placed at the one-yard line. If there is a touchback on the play, the ball comes out to the 20-yard line after a punt and the 25-yard line after a kickoff.