NFL Rule Changes for 2012


The 2012 NFL season kicks off on Wednesday and as usual, there are some rule changes for the upcoming season that we should know as we head into the season, even if the replacement referees might not know them:


Even though we haven’t really seen much of this rule in the playoffs, the league is implementing the new overtime rules into the regular season across the board.  In case you’re not in the know, here is the rule, according to


The modified sudden death system of determining the winner shall prevail when the score is tied at the end of regulation playing time of NFL games. The system guarantees each team a possession or the opportunity to possess, unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on its initial possession.

» At the end of regulation time, the Referee will immediately toss a coin at the center of the field in accordance with rules pertaining to the usual pregame toss. The captain of the visiting team will call the toss prior to the coin being flipped.

» Following a three-minute intermission after the end of the regulation game, play will be continued in 15-minute periods until a winner is declared. Each team must possess or have the opportunity to possess the ball unless the team that has the ball first scores a touchdown on its initial possession. Play continues in sudden death until a winner is determined, and the game automatically ends upon any score (by safety, field goal, or touchdown) or when a score is awarded by the Referee for a palpably unfair act. Each team has three time-outs per half and all general timing provisions apply as during a regular game. The try is not attempted if a touchdown is scored. Disqualified players are not allowed to return.

» Instant Replay: No challenges. Reviews to be initiated by the replay assistant.

Key Definitions:

» Possession: Actual possession of the ball with complete control. The defense gains possession when it catches, intercepts, or recovers a loose ball.

» Opportunity to possess: The opportunity to possess occurs only during kicking plays. A kickoff is an opportunity to possess for the receiving team. If the kicking team legally recovers the kick, the receiving team is considered to have had its opportunity. A punt or a field goal that crosses the line of scrimmage and is muffed by the receiving team is considered to be an opportunity to possess for the receivers. Normal touching rules by the kicking team apply.

For full details, click here.

Instant Replay

Last season, the NFL expanded instant replay to review all scoring plays.  They’ve taken it a step further in 2012, by adding the review of all turnovers to be handled automatically.   This could get really messy on fumbles and the ensuing skirmishes.  While this could add some time to the games, it’s most important on change of possessions to get it right.  It also takes a lot of the “do I challenge or don’t I challenge” out of the hands of the coaches.

Crackback Blocks

The Hines Ward Rule.  Crackback Blocks that occur two yards outside of the tackle are now illegal.

Too Many Men on the Field

New York Giants Rule. Too many men on the field is a dead ball foul and a 5-yard penalty.  This might be the result of the last Super Bowl where the Giants had 12 men on the field late in the game where the only thing that mattered to either team was the time on the clock.  By lining up 12 men on defense, the Giants burned some valuable time off the clock.  Now, that won’t happen.  Too many men results in a dead ball foul, so no time runs off the clock.  Loophole closed.

Trade Deadline Moved

Among a couple of late rule changes is the move of the trade deadline from Week 6 to Week 8.  This might help encourage the almost non-existent trade market at the deadline.  It’s rare that a player steps in and can immediately contribute to a new team, so I’ll be interested to see if this rule change actually spurs some trades.  Maybe Devin Hester for Jake Long?

New IR Rule

The old IR rule meant a player was done for the season.  Now, a player can come back from IR if he’s designated to come back.  Here’s what Larry Mayer had to say in explaining the rule:

This season NFL teams will now be permitted to re-activate one player from injured reserve. Since the rule is being adopted after the cut down to 75 players, clubs will be allowed to return one player who has already been placed on IR to their active roster. But they must select that player no later than 8 p.m. (CT) Friday, which is the league deadline to reduce rosters to 53.

Following the cut down to 53, only players with a “major injury” who are placed on IR after 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 4 will be eligible to be reactivated at a later time. A major injury is defined as an injury that renders the player unable to practice or play for at least six weeks.

Each team may re-activate only one player placed on IR after 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 4. That player must be “designated for return” at the time he’s placed on IR. He will be eligible to return to practice after six weeks on IR and may return to the active roster following eight weeks on IR.

Kicking Loose Ball

Kicking a loose ball is now 5 yard penalty and loss of down

Player Names on Back of Jerseys can have Roman Numerals

What I call the RGIII Rule.  How long ’til HeHateMe gets printed across the back of jerseys.

Now if only those replacement refs can get all this down, we’ll be in good shape.