NFL reportedly tinkering with onside kicks, considering bold rules to make kickoffs 'exciting again'

Tampa Bay Buccaneers punter Jake Camarda (5) tries an onside kick during an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Peter Joneleit)
Rules around onside kicks could drastically change if new proposals are adopted by the NFL. (AP Photo/Peter Joneleit) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The NFL loves to tinker with the game to achieve a desired result, and it looks like it is doing it again with kickoffs.

According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the NFL is working on adjustments to onside kicks and also considering a series of rules designed to make kickoffs "exciting again."

NFL special teams coordinators reportedly met at the NFL scouting combine over the weekend and crafted more rules for onside kicks, which are harder to pull off than ever before. According to Pelissero, teams would only be able to attempt an onside kick if they're trailing in the fourth quarter, and they would have to let the other team know they're doing it in advance.

"If the kickoff team declares they’re attempting an onside kick, they potentially could be allowed to utilize an unbalanced (6x4) formation, raising odds of recovery," Pelissero posted on X, formerly Twitter. "Just 5.2% were recovered in 2023 and there [sic] just two surprise onside kicks, thanks largely to run-ups being banned."

In addition to the onside kick rules, the NFL reportedly wants to make kickoffs interesting again after changing the rules to protect player health and safety. Via Pelissero:

Setup zone: The kick and return teams would line up on the receiving team’s 40- and 35-yard lines, respectively, and not leave until the ball is touched or reaches the “target zone” (20-yard line to goal line).

Touchbacks: If the ball is kicked into the end zone, the receiving team gets it at the 35. If the ball is kicked into the target zone and rolls into the end zone, the receiving team gets it at the 20.

The rule on touchbacks is particularly interesting. It would make kickoffs hugely consequential, since 15 yards are at stake every time.

But we'll only get to see how teams would handle that if the rules are approved. That's up to the owners, who could vote on the new proposals by the end of March.