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Fourth-and-15 Onside Kick Alternative Tabled

NFL owners adopt four rules changes for 2020 season

Safety Budda Baker celebrates an onside kick recovery against the Redskins in 2017.
Safety Budda Baker celebrates an onside kick recovery against the Redskins in 2017.

The proposal to allow a fourth-and-15 onside kick alternative was tabled during Thursday's virtual owners meetings.

Safety precautions on kickoffs have made traditional onside kicks harder to convert, but there was not enough support to allow the untimed down from the kicking team's 25, in which a first down would have resulted in retained possession.

The owners discussed the proposal for 20 to 30 minutes, competition committee chairman Rich McKay said on a conference call. An informal poll showed that the proposal would not have received the required 24 of 32 votes, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, but a new iteration could be introduced in the future.

NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent said it's important to consider the pros and cons of such a dramatic change, and that there was much more conversation on the proposal than a year ago.

While the onside kick alternative was not adopted, there were four changes that will go into effect for the 2020 season:

  • The number of players that may be designated to return from injured reserve was increased from two to three.
  • Defenseless player protection was expanded to kickoff and punt returners.
  • A loophole was closed which allowed teams to manipulate the game clock by committing multiple dead-ball fouls in succession.
  • Replay on scoring plays or turnovers that were negated by a foul were made permanent.

Owners also approved expanding communication between the replay assistant and referee during the preseason.

Images of Cardinals cheerleader Angelica during the 2019 season