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NFL Rule Changes: Overtime Length and Touchdown Celebrations

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Starting in the 2017 season, the league will allow more celebrations after touchdowns and play a ten-minute overtime period.

NFL: 2017 NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell informed the league’s owners of a few significant rule changes that will take effect this season.

Shorter Overtimes

The first change announced on Tuesday was the new length for overtime periods in preseason and regular season games.

Instead of an extra 15-minute period, there will now be a 10-minute overtime, based on a vote by NFL team owners.

Undoubtedly, this will lead to more ties, which in my opinion is the worst possible outcome for a competitive sporting match. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien disagrees, instead expecting teams to be more aggressive in overtime.

According to this article by Jeanna Thomas, the driving force behind the rule change is the idea that shortening overtime would be better for player health and safety.

I did some quick mental math (with a calculator) and discovered that over the last five years, there have been 1,280 regular season football games played. 83 of those games went to overtime, a whopping 6% of the total games played.

Of those 83 overtime games, 16 of them were still tied after 10 minutes of overtime action (according to this article).

That means that in the last five seasons, 1.25% of ALL games played would’ve been impacted by this rule change... yeah, seems really significant...

Obviously, player safety is very important to the NFL. According to Jeanna Thomas, the NFL’s competition committee recommended this shortened overtime rule so that players have a better chance to recover before playing their next game.

But they’ll still make teams play on Thursday nights.

Touchdown Celebrations

The NFL has taken a lot of flak under Roger Goodell’s tenure for being too strict about many rules, leading to the mock interpretation of “NFL” as “No Fun League.”

Well, starting in 2017, the good times will roll again.

In a “Commissioner Letter” tweeted today by Roger Goodell (which I recommend you open in a new tab and read for yourself), he announced changes to the celebration rules, which will now allow players to:

  • Use the football as a prop
  • Go to the ground
  • Coordinate a group demonstration

Excerpted from Goodell’s note is the following explanation:

Today, we are excited to tell you about another change that comes after conversations with more than 80 current and former players: we are relaxing our rules on celebrations to allow players more room to have fun after they make big plays.

While the rules will be more lenient, it won’t be an “anything goes” situation, either.

In my conversations with NFL players, it was also clear how much our players care about sportsmanship, clean competition, and setting good examples for young athletes. That is why offensive demonstrations, celebrations that are prolonged and delay the game, and those directed at an opponent, will still be penalized.

That means miming of weapons, sexually suggestive gestures, and other offensive or prolonging celebrations will still be flagged.

This is a great move by the NFL. As long as the celebrations are not egregiously offensive, there should be no reason to prevent players from celebrating, whether it’s an extravagant pre-planned demonstration or a spontaneous burst of emotion.

I hope we see some great coordinated group celebrations next season.

Roster Rule Changes

While the big headliners are the shortened overtime and expanded celebrations, there were a couple of changes to the construction of rosters that will be impactful next season, as well.

The 75-man roster cut-down has been eliminated from the preseason roster building process. Rather than cut from 90 players to 75 between the third and fourth weeks of preseason, NFL teams will now make just “one” cut, axing 37 players to get from 90 all the way to 53 after the final preseason game.

Obviously this gives more players another chance to prove themselves in that final week of preseason action.

The other significant roster change allows for not one but now two players to be eligible to return from an Injured Reserved designation. Last offseason, owners voted to allow one player to be designated for IR recall if they had spent 6 weeks on IR. Now, there will be two such players for each team.

These rule changes won’t force any major strategic shifts, but they should improve the overall game experience for both players and fans.