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NFL tables fourth-and-15 onside kick alternative proposal

The fourth-and-15 alternative to the onside kick was not approved during Thursday's virtual meeting.

NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported that ownership tabled the proposal for further discussion.

The proposal would have given teams an alternative to the onside kick in an effort to retain possession after a score. The rule would have provided coaches the option to attempt one untimed down to convert a fourth-and-15 from their own 25-yard-line. If the play failed, the opponent would have taken possession at the dead-ball spot.

The NFL has been looking at ways to improve the odds for a trailing team to retain possession late in games after the onside kick has been neutered in recent seasons due to rule changes that help make kickoffs safer.

Alas, owners decided it wasn't the time to make the drastic change by implementing the fourth-and-15 option. It's possible after further discussion that such a change could take place down the road.

Pelissero added there was no official vote on the proposal, but owners did take a show of hands during the virtual meeting, and it didn't have the support to pass at this time. Any proposal needs the approval of at least 24 of 32 owners to be employed.

Pelissero also reported that owners approved a report from the league's competition committee that included a plan to test in the preseason expanded booth-to-official communication with certain objective information. This comes after Wednesday's news that the two "sky judge" proposals had been withdrawn.

While the fourth-and-15 rule was tabled, owners did make several other changes:

  • A bylaw change increased the number of players who could return for injured reserve from two to three per team.
  • Made permanent the expansion of automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any successful or unsuccessful point-after-try attempt.
  • Expanded defenseless player protection to a kickoff or punt returner who is in possession of the ball but who has not had time to avoid or ward off the impending contact of an opponent.
  • Teams are prevented from manipulating the game clock by committing multiple dead-ball fouls while the clock is running. The rule will eliminate the ability for teams to drain clock while in punt formation with more than 5 minutes remaining on the game clock, which became more prevalent this past year.

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