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MT5: New kickoff rule is the biggest change approved at the NFL Annual Meeting 

Murphy Takes 5 is a monthly column written by President and CEO Mark Murphy

2024 Annual Meeting
2024 Annual Meeting

On the first Saturday of every month, Mark will write about a topic of interest to Packers fans and the organization, and then answer five fan questions. Fans are encouraged to email Mark with their name and hometown at:

The NFL held its annual league meeting two weeks ago in Orlando, Fla. Compared to previous meetings, the agenda was relatively light. The biggest change coming out of the meeting was the adoption of a new kickoff rule that is modeled after the XFL's previous rule. The new kickoff is dramatically different than the traditional kickoff (the kicking team will be ahead of the kicker, the majority of the return team is five yards away from the kicking team, and players cannot move until the ball is either caught or hits the ground), but it should be safer and there should be significantly more returns. We were one of the three teams to vote against the new rule. I explain our thought process in an answer to one question below.

Other rules that were passed included banning the hip drop tackle – an extremely dangerous play where the tackler typically grabs the back of the runner's jersey and swings his legs into the legs of the runner. It may be hard for officials to see the infraction on the field, but passing the rule allows the league office to fine players after the game. It will be good to get this play out of the game. Another rule change of note can provide teams with an additional replay challenge. Teams will now have a third challenge if they are successful in one of their first two challenges (you had to be two for two under the previous rule).

International play continues to be a top priority for the league. Currently, the NFL is a top three sport in the US, Canada, and Mexico. The goal is to make the league more popular in additional countries. This year there will be five international games (three in London, one in Germany and the first-game ever in Brazil). In 2025, there will be eight international games. Future games could be held in Spain, Mexico, Italy, and Australia, among other countries. The International Player Pathway program (17th practice squad player) is also part of the overall strategy.

Flag Football was also highlighted at the meeting. Since 2019, participation in flag football has more than tripled. This helps the NFL not only in football participation (many players transition to tackle) but also in fan development. In a growing number of states, girls flag football is now a sanctioned sport. Finally, flag football will be an exhibition sport in the Olympics in LA in 2028. The league hopes it will be a permanent sport in the 2032 Olympics.

Now, on to your questions.

Mark D. from Plymouth, MA.

In last month's column you wrote about the current state of returns where most kickers boot it out the end zone. You wrote that such kicks are "in my mind, nothing is more boring in the game." Can you explain why you were one of the three votes against the rule that did pass? Moreover, if you could have it your way, what would you propose instead of the one that passed?

Sure, Mark, I would be pleased to explain our thought process on this issue. Although the kickoff had become a meaningless play (none of the 13 kickoffs in the Super Bowl were returned and an all-time low of 22% of kickoffs were returned last season), I didn't think we knew enough about the new rule to justify voting for it. I would have preferred that we use the preseason this year as a trial. We have done this in the past with proposed rule changes. I believe that there may well be unintended consequences with the new rule from both a competitive and safety standpoint. The process seemed rushed to me. It also concerns me that the UFL – the merged league of the XFL and USFL – has a traditional kickoff rather than the XFL rule.

Jeffrey from Eveleth, MN.

Hello Mr. Murphy. I'm wondering about your role on draft days. Do you spend the days in the draft room with your staff? Do you give any input or opinions on the players being selected, or do you let your staff take on this responsibility? Just curious how this plays out. Thanks for all you have done for our great Packers team!

Great question, Jeffrey. I am in the draft room all three days, but I do not provide any input or opinions on players. Brian Gutekunst and his staff spend a lot of time preparing for the draft, and I view my role as mainly being to support them. It is fascinating to see how all the time and effort they have put in comes together. I'm excited for this year's draft. We should be able to really help ourselves with five picks in the top 100.

A question from Mark T.

First of all, thanks for taking the time to pose for a picture the day before the Saints game. We saw you EVERYWHERE that weekend, it seemed. We thought it was pretty cool. My question – how often do you catch grief from "fans" about the team, the job you are doing, etc. when you make yourself so visible? Do they positive vibes outweigh those hopefully rare times?

You're welcome, Mark. I enjoy interacting with fans generally, but especially on home game weekends. They are so excited to be at Lambeau Field. With regard to your question, it is fairly rare that I get grief from fans regarding the team – especially in-person. As you have seen in past MT5 questions, I do receive some critical comments. This is certainly understandable as fans sometimes are frustrated with the team's performance.

Luke W. from Virginia Beach, VA.

When you're looking at players in free agency, what is it that you/Brian look for the most besides team fit?

I've been very pleased with the way Brian has handled free agency during his tenure as general manager. The NFL Draft is the most important way to improve the team, but free agency can be a great complement, as well. I think this year's two big signings, Josh Jacobs and Xavier McKinney, are good examples of what we look for in free agents. They are both young, ascending players. We also look for players who have high character and are leaders. It is impressive that both Josh and Xavier were captains on their teams given how young they are. I'm confident that both Josh and Xavier will have a big impact on the team this year.

A question from Kary V.

First, thanks for taking the time to answer fans like me. I'm sure you're busy, but you've done a great job representing the organization over the years and have really grown the Packers footprint in Green Bay.

It bothers me that the NFL plays under different rules for overtime at different times of the year. I realize you are not on the competition committee anymore, but I'd like to propose a solution to overtime rules that is succinct and usable both for the playoffs and regular season. The rules of overtime should be:

1) Both teams will have a chance to possess the ball

2) If the team who possesses the ball first in overtime scores a touchdown, they may only kick an extra point. A two-point conversion is not an option (See: Rule 3).

3) A trailing or tied team must always try to be scoring more than the team who previously possessed the ball (e.g. if they scored a field goal, you must score a touchdown). If they scored a touchdown and had to kick an extra point, you have to score a touchdown and two-point conversion.

And that's it. Certainly, ties are still possible in the regular season if the extra quarter expires. Maybe both teams don't ever score, or both teams score touchdowns but miss extra points. But it feels like this is the better answer to what we currently have and puts more weight on the coaches' decision to receive/kick at the start of overtime. Thanks for taking the time, hopefully next year at this time I see you in a parade!

Thanks for the thoughtful proposal, Kary. I think you raise some good points. The reason the current NFL overtime rules are different in the regular season and postseason is because obviously you can't have a tie in the postseason. Your proposal would certainly make for some exciting games. When I was at Colgate, I was on the IAA Committee that adopted the current college overtime rules. I think it makes for some exciting games, but unlike the NFL rule, there is very little special-teams play. As you note, the overtime rules put more weight on the coaches' decisions. I know Kyle Shanahan was questioned for deciding to receive the kick in overtime in the Super Bowl. Conventional wisdom is that you are better kicking off (and going second on offense) because you know what you have to do to win and will go for it on fourth down since you have nothing to lose. These are tough decisions for coaches, and they will always be second guessed when they lose.