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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The NFL will move kickoffs up 5 yards to the 35-yard line, keep touchbacks coming out to the 20 and allow the number of players in a blocking wedge to remain at two.
Kick coverage players now will be limited to lining up 5 yards or fewer from the spot of the kickoff.
Team owners also voted Tuesday to make all scoring plays reviewable by the replay official and referee. But they tabled a proposal to ban players launching themselves to make a tackle, and will reconsider it in May.
The league’s competition committee proposed placing the ball at the 25 after touchbacks on kickoffs and banning the wedge altogether. Several coaches expressed concern about making too many changes to kickoffs, also saying bringing touchbacks out 5 more yards would affect field position too much. Coaches worried about an increase in touchbacks from the 16 percent of kickoffs last season.
“Any time there’s a touchback and now it’s not coming to the 20,” Saints coach Sean Payton said, “I think that that probably was the most drastic of the four or five items that constituted one rule.”
Making kickoffs safer was the objective, and Payton believes the owners met it, voting 26-6 for the new rule.