The XFL season is upon us! This Saturday, February 8, 2020 the relaunch of Vince McMahon’s spring football league will take place. If you’re like me, this has been one of the most anticipated events of the 2020 sports year. Names like Cameron Artis-Payne, Anthony Johnson, Sammie Coates, Josh Johnson, Cardale Jones, Landry Jones, Aaron Murray, Donnel Pumphrey, Keenan Reynolds, Cyrus Kouandjio, and a host of others adorn the rosters that compose each team. However, before viewing this latest installment, we have to know the rules. In some regards, they greatly differ from that of the NFL. There are a few that may excite passionate football fans. So, before kickoff, indulge in a brief education on the regulations of the league as provided by Nick Schwartz from For the Win!
Point-after touchdown plays
In the XFL, there are no kicked extra pointsafter touchdowns. Instead, teams will have an option to run a play to score either 1, 2 or 3 extra points, creating the possibility for a 9-point touchdown. A 1-point try will be run from the 2-yard line. A 2-point try will start at the 5-yard line, and a 3-point try will start at the 10-yard line.
Unlike in the NFL, the XFL will allow two forward passes on a play, provided that the first forward pass is caught behind the line of scrimmage.
What is a catch?
In the XFL, receivers only need to have one foot – or any other part of their body – contact the ground in bounds, instead of two feet in the NFL. Here is how the league defines what a catch is:
Secures control of a live ball in flight before the ball touches the ground. Touches the ground in bounds with any part of his body, and then Maintains control of the ball long enough to enable him to perform an act common to the game, i.e., long enough to pitch or hand the ball, advance it, avoid or ward off an opponent, etc.
The XFL designed its kicking rules in a way to increase the amount of returns we see compared to the NFL, and to make returns safer. Kickoffs are going to look very different.
On a kickoff, the kicker will kick the ball from their own 30-yard line, but every blocker will be lined up on the opposing team’s 35-yard line. The return team blockers will be lined up at their own 30, just five yards away.
Only the kicker and receiver can move before the ball is caught. All other blockers are permitted to move when the ball is caught, or three seconds after it hits the ground, if the ball isn’t caught.
Kicks that fly out of bounds, or kicks that fall short of the opposing 20-yard line, will result in the receiving team taking the ball at their own 45-yard line.
Touchbacks will result in the receiving team starting at their own 35-yard line. Teams will be required to inform an official if they plan to use an onside kick, meaning they cannot surprise the opposing team with an onside kick.
Punting rules have also been changed to entice coaches to go for it on fourth down.
All punts that result in touchbacks will be placed on the receiving team’s 35-yard line. Punts that go out of bounds will also be placed on the receiving team’s 35-yard line, or wherever the ball went out if that occurred before reaching the 35.
The punting team may not cross the line of scrimmage before the ball is punted, which should reduce the amount of fair catches significantly.
There are no coaches challenges in the XFL. All reviews will be initiated by a replay official. Via the XFL, here is a list of reviewable plays:
(a) Plays involving possession. (b) Plays involving touching of either the ball or the ground. (c) Plays governed by the goal line. (d) Plays governed by the boundary lines. (e) Plays governed by the line of scrimmage. (f) Plays governed by the line to gain. (g) Number of players on the field at the snap. (h) Game administration. (1) Penalty enforcement. (2) Proper down. (3) Spot of a foul. (4) Status of the game clock. (i) Disqualification of a player. This list of reviewable plays is identical to those in the NFL prior to 2019.
The XFL has devised a completely new format for overtime, which is comparable to a shootout in soccer.
In overtime, each team’s offense will have five attempts to complete a two-point conversion from the five-yard line, with each successful conversion being worth two points. The team with the most points at the end of the shootout is the winner. If one team clinches a win early, the unnecessary remaining rounds of the shootout will not be played.
There will be no coin toss to determine the order of overtime. The visiting team will always make the first two-point attempt.
Defenses cannot score in overtime possessions in the event of a turnover.
Penalties in overtime:
Penalties will be crucial in overtime plays. If the offensive team commits a pre-snap penalty, the ball will moved back and the play will be re-attempted. If the offense commits a post-snap penalty, the play is considered dead, and any score will not count.
If the defense commits a penalty pre-snap, the ball will be moved to the one-yard line. For a post-snap penalty, the offensive team will have the option to re-try the play from the one-yard line if they do not score. Any future penalties committed by the defense in any future round will result in an automatic score for the offense.
The XFL will use a running clock outside of the final two minutes of the second quarter, and the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.
The final two minutes of the second and fourth quarters is what the XFL refers to as the “comeback period.” During these periods, plays that end out of bounds or with an incompletion will stop the clock until the next snap. The clock will be stopped after all other plays that end in bounds until the ball is spotted and five seconds have run off the play clock. In theory, this should give an offensive team leeway to run plays in the center of the field, as they will be able to rush back to the line of scrimmage without time coming off the clock.
The play clock is 25 seconds, and will begin when the ball is spotted following the previous play. There will be one official on the field dedicated to spotting the ball, in an effort to speed up the process compared to the NFL.
Each XFL team will receive two timeouts per half, compared to three per half for NFL teams.
The halftime break will be 10 minutes.
The XFL’s “illegal man downfield” rule has been rewritten to make it easier for officials to enforce.
No ineligible player shall be or have been more than three yards beyond the line of scrimmage until a passer throws a legal forward pass that crosses the line of scrimmage. A player is in violation of this rule if any part of his body is beyond the three-yard limit.
I am a 2003 graduate from the University of Alabama with a degree in Exercise Science. While at the Capstone, I served as a student assistant with the head strength and conditioning coach of the Crimson Tide football team. I have competed in both powerlifting and bodybuilding for several years. In addition, I have served athletes and people through the arena of personal training. Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I am a passionate fan of Alabama, but do not make other fan bases miserable because of it. College football has my heart first, but I cover all areas of sports. Follow me on Twitter: @justinriley7!