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Touchbacks Moved to 25 Yard Line

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Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The first round of rule changes at the league meetings seemed to be minor. The league made a major change yesterday, moving the spot of the ball after a touchback on kickoffs from the 20 yard line to the 25 yard line. The NFL also approved a rule for 2016 that two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties will lead to an ejection.

For the 2016 season only, players will be subject to automatic ejection if they commit two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the same game. The league has also moved the touchback after kickoffs to the 25-yard line, a change designed to limit the number of returns after injuries rose on the play in 2015.

Over the last few years, the NFL has attempted to reduce the number of kickoff returns from fear of injury. The hope here is returners in the end zone will be more likely to kneel down and take touchbacks, knowing the ball goes all the way out to the 25.

A number of people have raised an argument that the new rule might reduce the number of touchbacks, and I think it is a valid theory. The team kicking off might not want to give the returning team the ball all the way at the 25. They might be confident they can tackle the returner short of the 25 with a high kickoff that lands at the 2 or 3 yard line instead of drilling the ball into the end zone. It will certainly be interesting to see whether this new rule backfires on the league.