The XFL has preserved most of its rulebook for the 2023 season, including its unique kickoff and three-tier option structure for PATs, the league announced Wednesday.
Although the league made a handful of changes, most notably adjusting overtime and the challenge process, it largely leaned into the work performed by its 2020 predecessor.
"We looked at where we could make some tweaks and add some things," said Dean Blandino, the XFL's vice president of officiating and rules innovation. "But we felt like we had a really good foundation set in 2020, and going into this iteration, we felt like we didn't need to make a whole lot of changes for change's sake."
The kickoff formation puts the kicking team and the returning team five yards apart. No one except the kicker and returner can move until the ball is caught or is on the ground for three seconds, an effort to encourage returns and discourage touchbacks. The arrangement prompted XFL teams in 2020 to return 92% of kickoffs; the NFL rate this season is 39%.
XFL teams will also continue to get three options, all from scrimmage, after scoring a touchdown: a 1-point-attempt play from the 2-yard line, a 2-point play from the 5 and a 3-point play from the 10. Blandino said he anticipates most coaches choosing the 2-point option unless late-game math requires another decision.
The XFL remains focused on producing a faster-paced game than the NFL and hopes the average game time will be less than three hours. It will continue using a dedicated on-field official whose only job is to spot the ball between plays and will use a 35-second play clock to "keep the game moving," Blandino said. Halftime will be 10 minutes. Other changes for 2023 include:
• Coaches will get one challenge per game, to be used on any call or flag they wish. In 2020, all reviews were initiated from the replay booth. The NFL spent one season reviewing pass interference penalties, to disastrous results, but no level of football has given coaches the opportunity to challenge all penalties.
"We thought it was a good opportunity to try that out." Blandino said. "Ultimately we're going to have to make decisions and we'll have to apply a consistent standard in making those decisions. That's the only way you can do it when you talk about reviewing calls that are more subjective. You have to have a standard and stick to that standard."
• Overtime will consist of a minimum of three plays from the opponents' 5-yard line, per team, rather than five. There were no overtime games during the XFL's 2020 season to test the original rule.
• Teams will have an alternative to the onside kick in the fourth quarter. Instead of kicking, they can line up for one offensive play to get 15 yards in order to maintain possession after a score.
Under new owners Dany Garcia, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and RedBird Capital Partners, the XFL will return to the field Feb. 18, 2023. All games will be broadcast on Disney and ESPN platforms.