NFL rule proposals primer: Breaking down possible changes to overtime, onside kicks and more

The 2021 NFL draft will kick off in Cleveland one week from Thursday. But even with one of the league's biggest annual events on deck, there always seems to be ancillary business to conduct. Some competitive matters will be discussed Wednesday, when owners are scheduled to vote on an assortment of rules, bylaws and resolution proposals.

The league recently detailed a laundry list of various suggestions in a 35-page memo, but we'll try to distill the 10 potential rule changes and a few bonus measures down to the basics. (Each proposal must be approved by at least 75% of the owners – a minimum of 24 – in order to be adopted.)

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid talks to an official in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Arrowhead Stadium. (Photo: Denny Medley, Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

1. Eliminate overtime in preseason

Pretty self-explanatory as no one from fans to (apparently) club execs want to see a ragged additional period decided by backups to the backups on a Friday or Saturday summer night in games that don't count anyway.

2. Establish a maximum number of players in the 'setup zone'

For one year, the competition committee wants to see if onside kick recoveries increase by limiting the amount of players the receiving team can place in the "setup zone" – the area between 10 and 25 yards from the spot of the kickoff. The proposal would limit the receiving team to nine players in the setup zone (as opposed to 10 or 11), theoretically limiting its ability to recover onside kick attempts, which have become more difficult to execute since the NFL eliminated running starts for the kicking team in order to enhance player safety.

3. Expand prohibition on blocking below the waist

In another measure designed to augment player safety, the competition committee is proposing a 15-yard penalty for "blocking below the waist by offensive and defensive players on scrimmage downs when contact occurs beyond five yards on either side of the line of scrimmage and more than two yards outside of either offensive tackle."

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4. Permit replay officials and designated members of NFL officiating department to provide objective information to on-field officials

"When clear and obvious video evidence is present," this proposal would allow for game-day crews to get help as it pertains to correcting on-field rulings pertaining (but not limited) to receptions, interceptions, fumbles, plays on the boundaries, spotting the ball and whether or not a player is down by contact. Basically, on-site officials would get a helping hand on properly legislating objective plays when warranted – though the designated support from the officiating department "does not have the authority to instruct the on-field game officials to assess a penalty against a player."

5. Ensure enforcement of all accepted penalties committed by either team during successive try attempts

Proposed by the Chicago Bears, it wouldn't allow a team to benefit after committing a penalty on a two-point try. In other words, if a team is flagged while attempting a two-point conversion and then decides to go for the extra point instead, it can't later line up for a closer attempt on a two-point play if the defending team subsequently commits a penalty on the extra-point try (which would otherwise effectively negate the original foul on the first two-point attempt).

6. Loss of down for illegal forward pass

The Los Angeles Rams propose offending teams lose 5 yards and the down if they attempt a second forward pass from behind the line of scrimmage on a play or attempt what would be an illegal forward pass if the ball has already crossed the line of scrimmage on a given play. A ball illegally passed forward beyond the line of scrimmage already results in a loss of down. The Rams' proposal would prohibit teams from getting another chance to extend a drive by getting to replay a down even after being penalized 5 yards for an illegal second forward pass.

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