The NFL will once again use the Pro Bowl as a testing ground for potential rule changes.
The league’s officiating office announced two changes that it will be experimenting with in Sunday’s all-star game.
The first change could be a potentially systemic one.
After a successful field goal or extra point try attempt, the scoring team will have options with no kickoff.
The scoring team, Team A, will have the following options:
1. Team A may elect to give Team B the ball at Team B’s 25-yard line, beginning a new series of downs with a first-and-10.
2. Team A may elect to take the ball at its own 25-yard line for a fourth-and-15 play. If Team A is successful in making a first down, Team A will maintain possession and a new series of downs will continue as normal. If Team A is unsuccessful in making a first down, the result will be a turnover on downs and Team B will take possession at the dead-ball spot.
This rule tweak is the latest attempt to minimize kickoffs, which are among the most dangerous plays in football. The biggest challenge in curtailing kickoffs has always been the threat of getting rid of onside kick options, which would hinder a team’s chance of retaining possession in a comeback attempt.
Allowing a team to try to retain possession, but with the threat of failure setting up their opponents in potential scoring range, would represent a massive rule change if adopted in regular-season play.
The second rule change for the Pro Bowl pertains to false starts by a flexed wide receiver:
It is not a false start if a flexed, eligible receiver in a two-point stance who flinches or picks up one foot, as long as his other foot remains partially on the ground and he resets for one second prior to the snap. A receiver who fits this exception is not considered to be “in motion” for the purposes of the Illegal Shift rules.
It is a false start if all 11 offensive players have been set for at least one full second and any flexed, eligible receiver breaks his stance by picking up both feet.
The 2020 NFL Pro Bowl will take place Sunday, Jan. 26, at 3 p.m. ET in Orlando, airing on ESPN.