2019 NFL RULES CHANGES
PASS INTERFERENCE REPLAY REVIEW
Beginning in 2019, both offensive and defensive pass interference calls are reviewable. Plays can be reviewed whether the penalty was called on the field or not. This rule change is subject to a one-year trial period.
A pass interference ruling will be changed in replay only when there is clear and obvious visual evidence that the on-field ruling was incorrect. To change the ruling on the field, there must be clear and obvious evidence that contact “significantly hindered” or “did not significantly hinder” an opponent. See full details on the 2019 replay rule here.
Owners voted to expand protection of defenseless players by eliminating the blindside block. It is now prohibited for a blocker to initiate forcible contact with his head, shoulder or forearm when his path is toward or parallel to his own end line. The penalty for an illegal blindside block is a loss of 15 yards and an automatic first down.
Owners voted to make permanent the kickoff rules changes that were implemented in 2018. The restrictions resulted in a 35% decrease in concussions on kickoff plays when compared to the 2017 season.
Here are the NFL kickoff rules:
- The kickoff team must have five players on each side of the ball and cannot line up more than one-yard from the restraining line. For example, the kicking team will line up at the 34-yard line for a kickoff from the 35-yard line.
- At least two players must be lined up outside the yard-line number and two players between the inbounds lines (hash marks) and the yard-line number.
- At least eight players of the receiving team must be lined up in the 15-yard “setup zone” prior to kickoff; only three receiving-team players can remain outside of the setup zone.
- No wedge blocks are permitted. A wedge block is defined as “two or more players intentionally aligning shoulder-to-shoulder within two yards of each other, and who move forward together in an attempt to block for the runner.”
- Double-team blocks can only be performed by members of the receiving team who were originally lined up in the set-up zone at the time of the kick.
- Until the ball is touched or hits the ground, no player on either the receiving or kicking team may block within the 15-yard area from the kicking team’s restraining line. On an onside kick, the kicking team may not block in the first 10 yards.
- The ball is dead if it is not touched by the receiving team and touches the ground in the end zone (touchback).
In addition to pass interference, owners voted to expand the number of plays subject to booth reviews to include:
- If a penalty flag is thrown that would negate a touchdown, the play will be reviewed first to determine if there was a score before the defense elects to enforce the foul.
- All two-point conversion reviews will now be initiated by the Replay Official. The plays are no longer challengeable by a coach. This is true regardless of the call on the field.
Other rules changes for 2019 include:
Beginning in 2019, only players in uniform may enter the field to celebrate. If anyone other than a player in uniform enters the field, it is a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct — loss of 15 yards and an automatic first down.
Owners voted to expand the authority of game officials to disqualify players for acts committed during a game. In 2018, designated members of the officiating team could disqualify a player for non-football acts (such as unsportsmanlike conduct) if a flag was thrown related to that act. In 2019, this will be expanded to also include any football act.
PENALTY ENFORCEMENT ON TOUCHDOWN PLAYS
The offense may now apply any penalties committed by the defense to either the ensuing kickoff or to the succeeding extra point or two-point conversion plays.
POINTS OF EMPHASIS
USE OF HELMET
The Officiating Department will continue to emphasize the Use of Helmet rule adopted in 2018.
The officiating standards for the Use of Helmet rule are:
- Lowering the head (not to include bracing for contact)
- Initiating contact with the helmet to any part of an opponent. Contact does not have to be to an opponent’s head or neck area — lowering the head and initiating contact to an opponent’s torso, hips, and lower body, is also a foul.
- Making contact on an opponent (both offense and defense)
Players can be ejected for Use of Helmet fouls — and all ejections will be reviewed by senior officials in Art McNally GameDay Central in New York. The standards for ejection are, if:
- The player lowers his helmet to establish a linear body posture prior to initiating and making contact with the helmet;
- The player delivering the blow had an unobstructed path to his opponent;
- The contact was clearly avoidable
The Committee is in support of issuing warning letters for any Use of the Helmet fouls in the interior line or where there is little space between players.
Offensive holding will be more strictly enforced this season, particularly on the back side of the run play or line of scrimmage. Referees will closely monitor play at the line of scrimmage to ensure that offensive players do not materially restrict opponents or alter the defender’s path or angle of pursuit.
Material restrictions include but are not limited to:
- grabbing or tackling an opponent
- hooking, jerking, twisting, or turning him
- pulling him to the ground. (Rules from NFl.com)