Contact Us

How the NFL Has Changed Over the Years

The NFL has already announced that there will be some changes in the way the game is played. Here are some of the changes to look out for – and some of the more important NFL new rulings over the years.

Ankit Kanaujia
Last updated: 20.06.2023
Figure 1 There will be some new rules in the NFL this year

In the US, basketball, hockey and now baseball have dominated the sports news since the Super Bowl was played out at the beginning of February. The new NFL season is still well over two months away but, since the draft in April, the excitement has been steadily rising.


Football fans have been anxiously checking trade rumor sites and reading previews to see how their teams have been preparing for the season. But the NFL has already announced that there will be some changes in the way the game is played. If you like to bet on football then you should take as much notice of these as to who was picked number one in the draft. It might just give you the extra insight that you need.


Here are some of the changes to look out for – and some of the more important NFL new rulings over the years.


Safety First


The NFL owners met at the end of March ahead of the new season and there is always intense debate over how the game should – or should not – be changed. One of the biggest themes of recent years has been the safety of the players. Football has always been a rough game but life-limiting injuries to players and former players have caused a series of rethinks.


This season is no different, even though there has already been criticism of some of the new rules brought in. The biggest is probably that if a player calls for a fair catch behind the 25-yard line at a kickoff, the ball will then be placed on the 25-yard line as a start. The reason given for the change was to reduce concussions, but players and coaches have argued that a kickoff is no more dangerous than any other play.


The other main safety rule change for 2023 is that teams will be able to have a third quarterback available on game days, without having to occupy a roster spot. This player can enter the field if both the starting QB and the backup is injured.


Player Numbers


Not all rule changes are controversial. Some are just aesthetic. An example for this season is that any players currently allowed to wear single-digit numbers will also be allowed to wear the number “0”. Placekickers and punters will also be able to wear numbers 0-49 and 90-99.


The change to allow “0” on jerseys mirrors the move in college football, where the change was brought in in 2020. Many new players coming from the NCAA will be able to keep their number now - and it is expected to be a big change for merchandise and apparel sales as well.


Figure 2 : Will any of the changes make the game more exciting?

Penalty Changes


There haven’t been as many penalty changes in the NFL as in previous years. But there have been some alterations to bring the penalties in line with each other. For example, illegally handing the ball forward behind the line of scrimmage will now result in a loss of down.


There has also been a new look at the practice of launching to attack an opponent. Currently the rule referred to players taking off from both feet. But that will now change to when they launch from just one.

Previous Changes that Made Football Better


Other offseasons have seen far more dramatic changes to the game. For example, in 1906 the forward pass was legalized. Can you imagine how the game looked before then? It took until 1933 for a passer to be able to throw the ball from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage. The quarterback became the most important player on the field overnight.


It wasn’t until 1980 that the idea of personal fouls arrived in the NFL. Incredibly, the ruling came in to ensure that players would not “strike, swing, or club opponents in the head, neck, or face”. That seems to be a good idea for player safety.


How this year’s rule changes will be taken remains to be seen. They are not as dramatic, so there might not be too much outrage. But it could take a few weeks for the players to get used to them – and that always makes things a little more interesting.

Chase Your Sport

Stay up-to-date on the latest sports news, stats, expert analysis and trends, including cricket, football, wrestling, tennis, basketball, Formula One and more. Find previews, schedules, results of upcoming events, and fantasy tips on Chase Your Sport.