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#pounditThursday, May 13, 2021

NFL owners table proposal for 4th-and-15 onside kick alternative

NFL owners were scheduled to vote this week on a proposal that could have provided an exciting alternative to the onside kick, but the rule is not going to be implemented this season.

The onside kick alternative would allow teams to attempt to keep possession of the ball after a score by converting a 4th-and-15 from their own 25-yard line rather than kicking off. Team owners have decided to table the idea rather than sending it to a vote, though NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports that they did take an unofficial poll.

Support had reportedly been growing for the idea, so it is possible we could see it put into play in 2021. There were some questions over how many times teams would be able to attempt the 4th-and-15 play and some other details that needed to be sorted through, which is likely why the proposal was tabled.

As it stands, teams have almost no chance of recovering an on-side kick. The conversion rate was over 20 percent a few years back, but the NFL changed kickoff rules to make it so players on the kicking team cannot get a running start before the ball is kicked. The goal with that change is to avoid violent collisions, but it has also made recovering an on-side kick far more difficult. The success rate of on-side kicks has fallen to around 5 percent since the new rule was implemented.

The XFL had some unique kickoff rules during its brief return this year, and those may have helped inspire the NFL to explore changes of their own.

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