NFL owners on Thursday approved three rule changes and one bylaw change for the upcoming season during their virtual league meetings.
Each change required two-thirds approval from the league's 32 clubs. While there was one notable rule change that would have provided an alternative for an onside kick attempt initially up for a vote, that was tabled.
The three approved rule changes are fairly minor:
- Automatic replay reviews can permanently include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any successful or unsuccessful try attempt.
- Defenseless player protection has been expanded to include kickoff and punt returners who have possession of the ball, but haven't had time to protect themselves from opponent contact.
- Teams cannot manipulate the game clock by committing multiple dead-ball fouls — like a delay of game followed by a false start — while the clock is running.
The third change stems from what happened late in the Patriots and Titans Wild Card matchup in January when Tennessee took a delay-of-game penalty and then committed a false start to burn an extra 40 seconds off the clock. The Patriots didn't help themselves by committing a neutral-zone infraction, allowing another 40 seconds to come off. But that clock loophole the Titans initially exploited is now closed.
The owners also approved one bylaw change:
- The number of players that may be designated for return from injured reserve is increased from two to three. This also incorporates interpretations applicable to bye weeks during the regular season and postseason.
The NFL has made a few changes to injured reserve over the last few seasons, first allowing one player to be designated to return in 2012, before increasing that number to two players in 2017. Now, teams will be able to designate three players. Players do not have to receive the designation to return until they're ready to practice, giving clubs more flexibility.