Confession: I might have utilized CliffsNotes on more than one occasion as a high school student, particularly for the books assigned over the summer. That was before I discovered a love for reading and writing.
With a bevy of rule changes going into effect for the 2018 NFL preseason, we thought it would be helpful to simplify explanations of potentially significant offseason changes.
1. Catch rule (reception or interception)
Players must have control and then two feet down (or a body part) and make a football move.
Movement of the football without loss of control will not be considered loss of possession.
We think that means the play involving Adam Thielen before halftime at Carolina that was initially ruled a 4-yard touchdown would not be reversed going forward.
2. PAT/two-point attempt on final play
If a touchdown occurs on the last play of regulation — Minneapolis Miracle, anyone? — an extra point or two-point conversion will only be required if the score is tied or if the scoring team trails by one or two points.
If the second team to have the ball in overtime loses possession, the down will be played to its conclusion and any scores will count.
4. Lowering the helmet
The wording provided by the NFL to broadcast partners for this one is, "It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer explained to Vikings players the rule is designed to prevent the use of the helmet as a weapon.
5. Sliding or diving QB
If a runner dives or slides, intentionally going to the ground, the ball will be spotted where the first body part touches the ground, even when the runner is attempting to reach the goal line or line to gain.
The league also reminded quarterbacks and all runners the importance of giving themselves up early to gain protection from contact. If a defender has already committed to a tackle, contact may occur, but it can't be late or to the head or neck area of the runner.
6. New kickoff rule
There are multiple changes to kickoff procedures. Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer participated on a committee that recommended changes to keep the play part of the game and further enhance safety.
Kicking team must have five players on each side of the ball and cannot line up coverage players more than 1 yard from the restraining line. For kickoffs at the 35-yard line, for example, all non-kickers will line up at the 34.
At least two players must be lined up outside the yard-line numbers and two players between the hash marks and yard-line numbers.
At least eight players on the receiving team must be lined up in the 15-yard "setup zone" before the kickoff. The setup zone for a normal kickoff would be the 45-yard line of the kicking team and the 40-yard line of the receiving team. No one can block in the setup zone until the ball is touched. (Optimum Scouting's Justis Mosqueda delved into a potential side effect of the new rules on onside kicks.)
Wedge blocks — two or more players lining up shoulder-to-shoulder within 2 yards of each other and moving forward together — are no longer allowed.
The ball is dead if it touches the ground in the end zone without being touched by the receiving team. A touchback will be awarded, placing the ball at the receiving team's 25-yard line.