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NFL tests new rules at Pro Bowl

The Pro Bowl will feature a new way teams can get the ball back other than an onside kick.

Amari Cooper #19, Ezekiel Elliott #21, Dak Prescott #4, Leighton Vander Esch#55, and Byron Jones #31 of the Dallas Cowboys get introduced before the 2019 NFL Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium on January 27, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Pro Bowl will once again be a testing ground for some interesting rule changes. There are already significant differences in the official rules and the Pro Bowl rules, as they’ve worked at making the game safer by eliminating kickoffs, no blitzing, intentional grounding is allowed, no blocks below the waist, a tight end and running back are required in all formations and there is no pre-snap motion.

This season, they are testing two new rules to spice things up a bit. For the first one, think XFL meets the Pro Bowl.

Here are the new options after a successful field goal:

The scoring team, Team A, has the following options:

  1. Team A may elect to give Team B the ball at Team B’s 25-yard line, beginning a new series of downs with a first-and-10.
  2. Team A may elect to take the ball at its own 25-yard line for a fourth-and-15 play.
  3. If Team A is successful in making a first down, Team A will maintain possession and a new series of downs will continue as normal.
  4. If Team A is unsuccessful in making a first down, the result will be a turnover on downs and Team B will take possession at the dead ball spot.

This rule change is likely in response to the new onside kick rules which make it nearly impossible to get the ball back when in desperation mode without putting players at risk when barreling into each other while going for an onside attempt. And since it is only after field goals, teams couldn’t double-up on touchdowns.

The Pro Bowl is a good time to test these kinds of rule changes out, because nobody really cares about the Pro Bowl and doing anything this big in the regular season would need a lot of backing — which would only happen if there were some examples that proved worthwhile. If this change were to actually catch on, they might try it out in preseason at some point. The NFL isn’t big on changes this monumental, so the odds are likely low we see this implemented at any point in the near future — especially with TV ratings continuing to peak.

The other rule isn’t as big, but would help offenses:

Not a false start on a flinch by a flexed receiver:

It is not a false start if a flexed, eligible receiver in a two-point stance who flinches or picks up one foot, as long as his other foot remains partially on the ground and he resets for one second prior to the snap. A receiver who fits this exception is not considered to be “in motion” for the purposes of the Illegal Shift rules.

It is not a false start if all 11 offensive players have been set for at least one full second and any flexed, eligible receiver breaks his stance by picking up both feet.

This proposed rule looks to give wide receivers a little more leeway pre-snap. As long as they reset before the snap, a slight movement won’t be called for a false start. It makes sense, as offensive lineman can shift around pre-snap as long as they don’t simulate an actual snap and a wide receiver flinching doesn’t usually cause a cornerback to jump offsides. This is a rule we could see actually change much easier than the change of possession proposal.