NFL considering several major rule changes for 2023: Touchbacks could be modified on both punts and kickoffs

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The NFL’s 32 owners will be getting together in Arizona next week for the annual league meeting and when that happens, they’ll be voting on several potential rule changes for the 2023 season. Earlier this month, we shared some of those rule proposals with you, but those won’t be the only proposals that the owners will be voting on. 

The competition committee released some new proposals on Thursday and if they get voted through, there could be some major changes coming to the NFL in 2023 with the two biggest ones involving touchbacks. 

  • Touchbacks on punts could mean five extra yards for the receiving team. Under this proposal, the receiving team will get the ball at the 25-yard line if there’s a touchback on a punt. Under the current rule, the receiving team gets the ball at the 20. If this rule is approved, it would bring it in line with the current kickoff rule, which gives the receiving team the ball at the 25 on a touchback.   
  • Touchback proposal, Part II. Under this proposal, if a kickoff returner calls for a fair catch anywhere behind the 25-yard line, the receiving team will get the ball at the 25-yard line. This essentially means that any kickoff caught between the goal line and the 24-yard line can be moved up to the 25-yard line as long as the returner calls for a fair catch. 
  • Tripping would become a personal foul. Under the current rule, a team called for tripping is penalized 10 yards and if the penalty is committed by the defense, then the offense gets an automatic first down. Under the new proposal, tripping would be a 15-yard penalty and the offense will still get an automatic first down if the defense commits the penalty. 
  • Could soon be illegal to launch from one or both feet. Under the current rule, it’s considered an illegal launch if a player leaves both feet to spring forward and upward into an opponent. Under this proposal, it will become illegal to launch off ONE or both feet, which could make things more difficult for defenders. 
  • Changes to handing the ball forward penalty. This is not a penalty you see called very often, but it could be undergoing two slight changes. Under the proposal, it would be illegal to hand the ball forward to an ineligible receiver beyond the line of scrimmage. Something like this could happen if a QB is being sacked and he tries to hand the ball to an offensive lineman before going down. Also, the proposal states that you can’t hand the ball forward after a change of possession, which means the defense could theoretically be flagged for this if the proposal passes. (And for those wondering, a forward handoff is when a player receives a handoff when they are clearly in front of the player making the handoff). 
  • Possible change to illegal kicking penalty. If you illegally kick the ball, the current penalty is for 10 yards. Under the proposal, the penalty would only be five yards but it would also result in a loss of down. This penalty isn’t called often, but we did see it called back in December when Giants punter Jamie Gillan got flagged for punting the ball off of a bounce (You can see the play here). 

The above proposals came from the competition committee. As for the proposals from earlier this month, those came from the individual teams and here’s a quick look at several of the more notable ones: 

  • Rams want to make roughing the passer reviewable. After a 2022 season with several controversial roughing the passer penalties, the Rams are proposing a rule that would make the penalty reviewable. According to, the competition committee doesn’t sound excited about the change, so it’s unlikely that we’ll see this one voted through. 
  • Lions want teams to be allowed to dress an emergency third quarterback. Under this proposed rule, teams would be allowed to carry 47 active players on game day, but the extra player would have to be a quarterback. Currently, teams are allowed to dress 46 players. The NFL used to allow teams to carry an emergency third quarterback on game day, but the league scrapped that rule in 2011. The rule came up again after the 49ers ran out of quarterbacks in their NFC title-game loss to the Eagles
  • Eagles are proposing an alternative onside kick. Instead of attempting an onside kick to get the ball back, teams would have the option to convert a fourth-and-15 from their own 25-yard line. This rule is being used in the XFL and one team actually converted on the play in Week 1 (You can see it here). The rule was popular enough in the NFL that it was proposed in 20192020 and 2021, but in each case, nothing changed (The rule was voted down in 2019 and the owners decided to table the discussion in both 2020 and 2021, which meant that no vote was held). 

When the competition committee proposes a rule change, the owners are more likely to vote it through. However, it should be noted that the committee didn’t endorse any of the team proposals, so it’s unlikely that any of those will get voted through. 

One other thing the owners will be voting on is to give the NFL the power to FLEX Thursday night games, according to the Sports Business Journal. If this proposal passes, then the league would be allowed to flex games from Sunday to Thursday, but there would be two stipulations: 

  • The flexing could only happen between Weeks 14 and 17. 
  • The games would have to be flexed at least 15 days in advance. 

For a proposal to become a rule, 24 of the NFL’s 32 owners will have to vote it through at next week’s meeting.