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NFL rules changes include expanded replay duties, jersey numbers

In this Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017 photo, referee

In this Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017 photo, referee Tony Corrente (99) looks at the instant replay on a Microsoft Surface tablet during the second half of an NFL preseason football game between the Carolina Panthers and the Houston Texans in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn) Credit: AP/Mike McCarn

An onside kick rules change, more jersey number alternatives and expanded duties for replay officials were three of the key rules change proposals enacted Wednesday by NFL owners during a virtual meeting.

With the number of onside kick recoveries dwindling in recent years, the owners adopted a measure to allow no more than nine players in a "setup zone" between 10 and 25 yards from the spot of the kickoff. Previously, receiving teams could put all 11 players in the zone, thus decreasing the chances for the kicking team to recover the kick. The new rule will be adopted on a one-year basis and will be revisited in 2022.

With the adoption of the new rule, the Eagles withdrew a proposal that would have allowed teams to use a fourth-and-15 alternative to an onside kick.

Owners voted to expand uniform number eligibility for several positions, so you’ll likely see several players change numbers as soon as this season. Under the new rule, jerseys with single-digit numbers can now be worn by wide receivers, tight ends, fullbacks, H-backs, running backs, defensive backs, and linebackers. Defensive backs and linebackers can wear numbers from 1-49, while receivers, tight ends, H-backs, fullbacks and running backs can wear numbers 1-49 and 80-89.

Quarterbacks, punters and kickers will continue to be required to wear numbers between 1 and 19, and linemen must wear numbers between 50 and 79, while defensive linemen and linebackers can also wear numbers 90-99.

Owners passed a measure proposed by the competition committee to allow replay officials to communicate with on-field officials if they see "specific, objective aspects of a play when clear and obvious video evidence is present." The rule was proposed as a way to correct plays that might be missed by on-field officials but are easily seen by replay officials on television monitors.

Preseason overtime is no more. Owners approved a rule to eliminate overtime in the preseason, which has been reduced to three games this season with the introduction of a 17-game regular season.

While there won’t be any rules changes to the league’s current taunting penalties, there will be a point of emphasis to reduce players engaging in face-to-face yelling, players standing over one another and finger-pointing. Expect to see more penalties called during such interactions. There will also be a point of emphasis on offensive holding penalties, which were called about 50% less frequently last season.

Owners tabled discussion of a proposal submitted by the Bills to push back interviews for coaches until after the conference championship games and require teams to wait until after the Super Bowl to make hires. The idea will be further discussed by the league’s diversity committee.

New York Sports