NFL changes overtime, roster moves and celebration rules

The NFL passed a few resolutions Tuesday at the owners meetings, some of them pretty significant in the way the game and rosters are managed.

The NFL will be changing the way overtime is handled, the way rosters are reduced in the preseason, and is loosening the rules regarding celebrations.

Overtime will now be 10 minutes instead of 15 minutes. According the league, over the last five seasons, 22 of the 83 overtime games lasted at least 10 minutes, meaning the outcome could have been altered in 26.5 percent of those overtime games with the new rules. Over that same time period, an average of one game a year has ended in a tie.

Currently, both teams are allowed at least one possession if the first team to possess the ball doesn’t score a touchdown and that part of overtime will remain the same. The average overtime has lasted seven minutes, 43 seconds over the last five years.

Another rule change involves the way rosters will be reduced in the preseason. Previously, the NFL required teams to trim their roster from the offseason limit of 90 players to 75 players before the final preseason game and then down to 53 players in the days after the preseason finale. Now, however, the league is eliminating that middle step. Instead, rosters will be reduced from 90 players to 53 players in one deadline day after the preseason in complete.

That will give players toward the bottom of the 90-man roster one more audition for the final roster or a practice squad spot, and the move makes sense considering how often teams don’t play their star players at all in the preseason finale.

A final roster change made on Tuesday will now allow teams to bring back two players off injured reserve during the season. Those players can return to practice after six weeks and to games after eight weeks. In recent years, a team could bring back only player from that list. That will give coaches and general managers more flexibility on the in-season 53-man roster.

The rules prohibiting certain kinds of celebrations also will be loosened, now allowing players to use the football as a prop, going to the ground to celebrate and allowing group celebrations.

“We know that you love the spontaneous displays of emotion that come after a spectacular touchdown,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a letter to fans after that rule change was announced. “And players have told us they want more freedom to be able to express themselves and celebrate their athletic achievements.”

Some celebrations, however, will still be penalized.

“In my conversations with NFL players, it was also clear how much our players care about sportsmanship, clean competition, and setting good examples for young athletes,” Goodell wrote. “That is why offensive demonstrations, celebrations that are prolonged and delay the game, and those directed at an opponent, will still be penalized.”

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