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No Gimmicks: XFL Rules Focused On Making Football Faster, More Exciting And Safer

The St. Louis Battlehawks will begin its inaugural season in the XFL on Feburary 8.

Vince McMahon’s Xtreme Football League kicked off for the first time in 2001 with all the gimmicky fun of his World Wrestling Federation.

And it failed after a single season.

The rebooted XFL, which kicks off with new teams in new markets on Feb. 8, will feature an evolution to traditional rules the to bring more excitement and minimal downtime to football without sacrificing player safety, according to a release from St. Louis’ franchise, the BattleHawks.

The league Tuesday announced several rules that will differentiate the XFL from other brands of football. Their unveiling follows “a rigorous 18-month research and development process,” said Brian Stull, the BattleHawks’ director of communications and media relations.

The process included input from current and former coaches, players, officials, media and physicians, he said, as well as a nationwide survey of more than 6,000 football fans. Suggestions and proposals were tested in game simulations.

The gimmicks and theatrics that marked the XFL’s first incarnation were avoided, league Commissioner Oliver Luck has said.

“From research we had done, fans think there’s too much downtime and dead time,” Luck told the Associated Press. “I suppose games have gotten longer,” Luck says. “We wanted to take a step forward by going back to games under three hours based on all our fan research. More action and more plays speed it up.”

Here are highlights of the new rules:


Coverage teams will line up just five yards apart to make the kickoff safer for players. Touchback penalties will be enforced to give players incentive to return kicks and preserve the potential for the big plays.

Points after touchdown

The will be no point-after kicks. Rather, a tiered point system allows teams to go for one point from the 2-yard line, two points from the 5-yard line and three points from the 10-yard line. A possible “nine-point touchdown” means an 18-point deficit is still a two-possession game.

'Shootout' overtime

Each team’s best offensive and defensive players will determine the result of a game tied at the end of regulation time. Each team will receive five attempts to score from the 5-yard line in a hockey shootout format, with the clubs alternating attempts (receiving two points per success) until one team’s total is insurmountable.

Double forward pass

Multiple forward passes will be allowed behind the line of scrimmage to create more play options for offenses.

Running game clock, fewer timeouts

The clock will run continuously outside of the two-minute warning, and teams will only be allotted two timeouts per half.

25-second play clock

A 25-second play clock that begins after the ball is spotted for the next play will eliminate some of the downtime between plays. The NFL playclock is 30 seconds.

One foot in bounds

Only one foot needs to be in bounds to be counted as a reception. This allows players to stabilize their bodies and reduce the chance of injury, the league says.

Shorter halftime

Halftime will be a 10-minute period before the action resumes.

Dedicated ball-spotting official

Eliminates confusion, enables quicker ball spots and powers a faster game.

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