NFL adjusts rulebook to account for kickoff tweaks

The NFL has republished its 2018 rulebook to account for several late tweaks to its new kickoff rule, a league spokesman confirmed.

None of the newest changes will make a substantive difference in the thrust of the rule, which is designed to reduce high-speed collisions through alignment shifts that make the kickoff look more like a punt. But the unusual timing -- teams received the updated rule as they reported to training camp -- reflects the hurried nature of the process. The league did not write the rule until the first week of May, and owners approved it May 22.

In the update distributed about 10 days ago, the league clarified that members of the kicking team can't use their hands or block against an opponent who is "at or five yards beyond the receiving team's restraining line" until the ball touches the ground. There is an exception for instances when the kicking team member is pushing aside a member of the receiving team who is "actively attempting to obstruct him."

Kansas City Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub, one of a handful of NFL coaches who designed the rule, said the recent clarifications were in response to questions from officials, who were briefed on the rule for the first time July 13.

"The referees like it to be cut and dried," Toub said. "If there is gray area in the wording, the language, then they have a problem with that. They want to make it clear and concise how to officiate it. I think that's really what came down right before we went to training camp. They changed some language and I think they got it cleaned up. I'm sure there are going to be some more tweaks along the way."