XFL Rules

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XFL Rules

America’s favorite game is evolving, and that means less stall and more ball.

When the XFL Opening Weekend kicks off on Feb. 8, our new league will feature exciting gameplay innovations that deliver what football fans have told us they want -- a faster pace of play and more action.

With these 5 Gameplay Innovations, 5 Timing Changes, and 5 Common Sense Rules, we're building on traditional football while preserving its authenticity. 

5 Gameplay Innovations: Kickoff | Point-After Touchdown | Punt | Double-Forward Pass | Overtime

5 Timing Changes: 25-Second Play Clock | Comeback Period | Running Game Clock | Timeouts | Replay Rulings

5 Common Sense Rules: One Foot Inbounds | Ball-Spotting Official | Coach-Player Communication | Simplified Illegal Man Downfield | Shorter Halftime

5 Gameplay Innovations

 

KICKOFF

XFL Rule

  • The kicker kicks from the 25-yard line and must kick the ball in the air and in play between the opponent’s 20-yard line and the end zone.
  • The coverage team lines up on the return side 35-yard line and the return team lines up on the 30-yard line. Each team must have exactly 3 players outside the hash marks on both sides of the ball and cannot move until the ball is caught by the returner.
  • Out of bounds kicks and kicks that fall short of the 20-yard line will result in an illegal procedure penalty, taking the ball all the way out to the kicking team’s 45 yard line.
  • Players can move when the ball is touched by the returner or 3 seconds after the ball touches the ground (when the official waves his hand down).
  • If the ball is kicked into the end zone and is downed it is a “Major” touchback and the ball is placed at the return side 35-yard line.
  • If the ball bounces in bounds and then out of the end zone or is downed in the end zone, the ball is placed at the return side 15-yard line.
  • If a player on the return team touches the ball and it goes out of bounds, the ball is spotted where it went out of bounds.
  • If a team wishes to run an onside kick, it must indicate this to the official before the play and the two teams will be permitted to line up using traditional NFL rules (i.e. 10 yards apart from the kicking team). There will be no surprise onside kicks.

Current NFL/College Rule

  • The NFL kicks off from the 35-yard line, with 5 players on each side of the ball. The ball can be kicked out of the end zone for a touchback or out of bounds and placed at the 40-yard line.
  • College also kicks off from the 35-yard line and allows return teams to take a touchback for any kickoff fair caught inside the 25-yard line.

Rationale

  • With a goal to eliminate safety issues with kickoffs, the NCAA and NFL created more opportunities for touchbacks. The increase in touchbacks naturally leads to fewer returns which means fewer meaningful plays. The XFL’s proposed rule change will encourage more kick returns while making the play less dangerous by eliminating the 30-yard sprint to collision.

 

POINT-AFTER TOUCHDOWN

XFL Rule

  • After a touchdown, the team has the option of running a play from the 2, 5, or 10-yard line, worth 1, 2, or 3 points respectively. The team must run an offensive play and no kicking plays are allowed.
  • If the defense is able to cause a turnover and return the ball to the opponent’s end zone, the resulting score is equal to the number of points the offense was attempting to score on its PAT.

Current NFL Rule

  • In the NFL, teams can elect whether to go for a kicked extra point or go for a 2-point conversion.

Rationale

  • The NFL has a near automatic play with its extra-point kick. The XFL has created excitement by replacing a kick with a play from scrimmage. To provide even more excitement, we have added the opportunity for a 3-point play, which means that an 18-point deficit is still a two-possession game. Fans have told the XFL that the 3-point play creates more strategy and innovation for the coaches.

 

PUNT

XFL Rule

  • Punting team cannot release past the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked.
  • Gunners must line up at the line of scrimmage and are permitted to move laterally once the ball is snapped until it is kicked.
  • Defenders over the gunner cannot cross the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked.
  • If the ball goes out of bounds inside the 35-yard line, it is a “Major” touchback and the ball goes to the 35-yard line.
  • If a punted ball lands in the opponent’s end zone or goes out of the end zone the result is a “Major” touchback, and the ball goes out to the 35-yard line.
  • Fair catches are permitted (though disincentivized - see Rationale)

Current NFL/College Rule

  • The NFL allows players that are the end man on the line of scrimmage (often called the “gunner”) to release once the ball is snapped, and all other players release when the ball is kicked. If a ball is kicked out of bounds it is placed at the spot it leaves the field of play.
  • College allows all players to leave once the ball is snapped. If a ball is kicked out of bounds it is placed at the spot it leaves the field of play.

Rationale

  • Fans told the XFL that they didn’t like the amount of punts (specifically punts in an opponent’s territory) and how many punts did not have a return (47% ended in fair catch, out of bounds, or touchback). The XFL has instituted two rule changes to address these concerns: all out of bounds kicks create a touchback (Major to 35), and no punt-coverage players can release until the ball is kicked. This will create an average distance between the punt return and the nearest defender to 11 yards, vs. similar leagues of 6 yards, creating less reason to fair catch.
  • The XFL touchback changes will create less incentive for teams to punt in an opponent’s territory. In NFL and College, touchbacks go to the 20, so teams will risk less vs. the XFL on punts. Our coaches will be incentivized to go for it on 4th down because there is a higher likelihood of a positive punt return, and no ability to “pin” the receiving team with a coffin corner kick.

 

Double-Forward Pass

XFL Rule

  • If a team completes a forward pass behind the line of scrimmage, that team may throw a second forward pass, as long as the ball has at no time crossed the line of scrimmage.
  • Once the ball has passed the line of scrimmage, no forward passes are permitted.

Current NFL/College Rule

  • The NFL and College only allow only one forward pass per play.

Rationale

  • The “Double Pass” is one of the most exciting plays in football and the XFL aims to add excitement while maintaining traditional football. The Double Forward Pass updates the rules to make double passes less risky because the first pass may fall incomplete rather than becoming a fumbled lateral.

 

Overtime

XFL Rule

  • Overtime shall consist of 5 “Rounds”, staged in alternating single-play possessions as is customary in NHL shootouts or MLS penalty kicks. A “Round” will consist of one offensive play per team. Each possession starts at the opponent’s 5-yard line and the offensive team has one play to score. The team with more points after 5 rounds is the winner.
    • If a team has been mathematically eliminated before all 5 rounds have been completed, the game ends immediately (e.g. If Team A scores on its first 3 attempts and Team B is stopped on its first 3 attempts, then no subsequent plays are necessary). 
    • If teams are tied after 5 rounds, then rounds continue until one team is leading at the conclusion of a round, and that team will be the winner.
  • For scoring purposes, each successful overtime score is worth 2 points.
  • The defensive team cannot score. If the offensive team commits a turnover, the play is over immediately.
  • If the defensive team commits a penalty, the offensive team will be allowed to re-attempt from the 1-yard line.
    • Any subsequent penalty committed by the defensive team on any subsequent play, including in future rounds, will result in a score awarded to the offensive team.
  • If the offensive team commits a pre-snap penalty, the ball will be moved back from the original spot, pursuant to regular rules and the play will be re-attempted.
  • If the offensive team commits a post-snap penalty, the play will end and no score will be awarded.
  • There will be a minimum of 20 seconds between plays with the ball-spotting official working in conjunction with TV and Official Review to signal when the next play begins.

Current NFL Rule

  • The NFL has a 10-minute overtime period, where each team must possess, or have the opportunity to possess the ball, unless the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown. A coin toss determines which team will possess the ball first in overtime. If neither team wins in the overtime period, the game ends in a tie.

Rationale

  • NFL overtime can end in a tie and a team’s offense may never see the field. Overtime may also take up to 27 minutes to complete in the NFL. XFL overtime allows both teams to play offense, in under 10 minutes, and always has a winner.

 

5 Timing Changes

25-Second Play Clock

XFL Rule

  • We will implement a 25-second play clock that begins after the ball is spotted for the next play.
    • It takes 7 seconds on average to spot the ball (average 32 second play clock)

Current NFL Rule

  • The NFL has a 40-second play clock that starts when the previous play ends.

Rationale

  • In order to speed up the game, we wanted to minimize the downtime between plays. Our coaching staffs and teams are going to provide what fans want -- more football during the game. 

 

Comeback Period

XFL Rule

  • Occurs after the 2-Minute Warning in each half.
  • On plays that end in the field of play, the game clock will be stopped until the ball has been spotted and 5 seconds have run off of the play clock.
  • On incomplete passes and out of bounds plays, the game clock will stop completely until the ball is snapped.

Current NFL/College Rule

  • The NFL has a 2-minute warning with 2 minutes left in each half, which stops the clock. When a player goes out of bounds or there is an incompletion inside the 2-minute warning, the clock stops until the ball is snapped on the next play.
  • College stops the clock after every first down for the Referee to re-spot the ball.

Rationale

  • The most exciting part of the game is the end of each half, and the XFL aims to maximize this excitement. By stopping the game clock after every play, the team that is trailing has a clear way to maximize its remaining time and still have the ability to use its complete playbook, including runs or plays in the middle of the field.
  • Also, a team cannot “run out the clock” at the end of the game until the opponent has no timeouts and there is 1 minute left (5 second run off on the play clock, so 20 seconds can be run off on a play), vs. the NFL, where a game can essentially be ended with 2 minutes left through three kneeldowns that each take 40 seconds off the play clock.

 

Running Game Clock

XFL Rule

  • Outside the last 2 minutes of each half, the game clock will run after incompletions and out of bounds plays.
  • Aside from incompletions and out of bounds plays, game clock rules outside the last 2 minutes of each half are the same as the NFL.

Current NFL/College Rule

  • The NFL game clock stops after every out of bounds play until the Referee re-spots the ball, and on incomplete passes until the next play begins.
  • College stops the clock after every 1st down and when a player goes out of bounds until the Referee re-spots the ball. The clock also stops after an incomplete pass until the ball is snapped on the following play.

Rationale

  • The XFL is aiming to play each game in under 3 hours, but with the same amount of total plays. In order to achieve this goal, the XFL is treating incompletions and out of bounds plays the same as plays that end in the field of play.

 

Timeouts

XFL Rule

  • Each team will have 2 one-minute timeouts per half.

Current NFL/College Rule

  • 3 timeouts per half

Rationale

  • With our rule changes in the last 2 minutes, coaches should not need as many timeouts to help create a comeback. By eliminating one timeout per half, we limit the number of stoppages during the most exciting part of the game. If a play is reviewed and overturned by replay during a timeout, the team that took the timeout will not be charged.

 

Replay Rulings

XFL Rule

  • The XFL will have no coaches’ challenges and all plays will be subject to review from the Replay Official, who will be stationed in a booth above the field.
  • Reviewable plays are limited to: (a) Plays involving possession. (b) Plays involving touching of either the ball or the ground. (c) Plays governed by the goal line. (d) Plays governed by the boundary lines. (e) Plays governed by the line of scrimmage. (f) Plays governed by the line to gain. (g) Number of players on the field at the snap. (h) Game administration. (1) Penalty enforcement. (2) Proper down. (3) Spot of a foul. (4) Status of the game clock. (i) Disqualification of a player. This list of reviewable plays is identical to those in the NFL prior to 2019.
    • Exception: The Replay Official may correct obvious errors involving player safety at any point throughout the game.
    • Exception: The Replay Official may correct any egregious obvious error that may have a significant impact on the outcome of the game in the last five minutes of the 4th quarter or during overtime.

NFL Rule

Coaches’ Challenge:

  • Each team is permitted two challenges that will initiate Instant Replay reviews: (a) The Head Coach can initiate a challenge by throwing a red flag onto the field of play before the next legal snap or kick. (b) A team that commits a foul that delays the next snap can no longer challenge the previous play. The non-fouling team can still challenge the previous play, and both teams can benefit from the review. (c) The Head Coach may challenge on-field rulings listed in Section 3, except for those plays that only the Replay Official can challenge (Article 2). (d) Each challenge requires an available team timeout. A team that is out of timeouts, or has used all its available challenges, may not attempt to initiate a challenge.

Rationale

  • Review/Replay in football officiating is paramount to how fans view the game. To get the play right is of utmost importance to the XFL and our goal is to provide quality reviews at the right times and in a timely fashion. By eliminating coaches’ challenges, we don’t rely on the teams to fix miscues by the officials, and by only allowing “common sense” to be applied to officiating we put the fan first instead of the process.

 

5 Common Sense Rules

One Foot Inbounds

XFL Rule

To catch a ball means that a player:

  1. Secures control of a live ball in flight before the ball touches the ground.
  2. Touches the ground in bounds with any part of his body, and then
  3. Maintains control of the ball long enough to enable him to perform an act common to the game, i.e., long enough to pitch or hand the ball, advance it, avoid or ward off an opponent, etc.

Current NFL Rule

  • To gain possession of a loose ball that has been caught, intercepted, or recovered, a player (a) must have complete control of the ball with his hands or arms and (b) have both feet or any other part of his body, other than his hands, completely on the ground inbounds, and, after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, perform any act common to the game. It is not necessary that he commit such an act, provided that he maintains control of the ball long enough to do so. This rule applies in the field of play, at the sideline, and in the end zone.

Rationale

  • Catches in the NFL are often up to debate because of timing and control of the football. By simplifying the rules that establish control of the football, we are creating easier ways for officials to determine when a catch is made. When interviewing over 100 players on their opinion, players often said “A catch is made with your hands, not your feet.”

 

Dedicated Ball-Spotting Official

XFL Rule

  • There will be a dedicated Ball Spotting Official who will solely be responsible for quickly spotting the ball and getting a new ball after each play.

Current NFL/College Rule

  • The NFL and College use a seven-official system, with no single official responsible for spotting the ball.

Rationale

  • The NFL cycles a new ball in and out of the game between plays using the entire crew and the ball personnel on the sideline. The average time to operate the spotting of the ball is 12 seconds but it is variable depending on the situation. The Ball Spotting Official standardizes the time it takes to spot the ball and gives the XFL an on-field official with control of the game tempo.

 

Coach-to-Player Communication

XFL Rule

  • While still in development, the goal is for select offensive players to have a Coach-to-Player helmet receiver.
  • The Coach-to-Player system would allow a member of the coaching staff in the bench area or the coaches’ booth to communicate to a player through a speaker in his helmet.
    • Broadcast partners would have access to this communication and may use it during the game.

Current NFL/College Rule

College:

  • No Coach-to-Player communication

NFL:

  • The Coach-to-Player system allows a member of the coaching staff in the bench area or the coaches’ booth to communicate to a designated offensive or defensive player with a speaker in his helmet. The communication begins once a game official has signaled a down to be over and is cut off when the play clock reaches 15 seconds or the ball is snapped, whichever occurs first.

Rationale

  • By allowing coaches to communicate with all offensive skill players that substitute and change location for each play we can play at a faster pace. Since offense changes much more than defense we only need to adjust the way the offense communicates to players.

 

Simplified Illegal Man Downfield

XFL Rule

  • No ineligible player shall be or have been more than three yards beyond the line of scrimmage until a passer throws a legal forward pass that crosses the line of scrimmage. A player is in violation of this rule if any part of his body is beyond the three-yard limit.

Current NFL/College Rule

  • College
    • When, after the snap, a Team A ineligible player immediately charges and contacts an opponent at a point not more than one yard beyond the neutral zone and maintains the contact for no more than three yards beyond the neutral zone.
  • NFL
    • An ineligible offensive player is illegally downfield if: (a) he moves more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage without contacting an opponent; (b) after losing contact with an opponent within one yard of the line of scrimmage, he advances more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage; (c) after losing contact with an opponent more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage, he continues to move toward his opponent’s goal line.

Rationale

  • This rule has become a more important part of football due to the advent of the RPO (Run Pass Option). Due to the way the rule is traditionally written, it is hard to officiate. The XFL has written the rule to be clearer while also helping teams that run the RPO.

 

Shorter Halftime

  • 10-minute break, then back to the action.