Week 1 of the 2023 XFL season – the third iteration of the spring football league – is in the books.
Curious fans who tuned in may have noticed differences in the rulebook from the NFL and college football. The most obvious changes are in the points after touchdown and kickoffs, though there are several other subtler tweaks that may not be as noticeable. Still, fans will recognize the product, as the XFL is retaining many of the core rules and regulations that fans are used to with NFL and college play.
One interesting wrinkle is that XFL vice president of officiating and rules innovation Dean Blandino will be made available throughout broadcasts to comment and discuss officiating decisions and replay challenges in an attempt to have clarity and transparency.
Here’s everything you need to know about the XFL’s rule book.
What are some of the notable XFL rule changes?
The most interesting change is that the league is offering coaches the chance to challenge, one time per game, any possible play, including judgment penalties like pass interference and holding.
‘This has never been done before at any level of football and something we have talked about during my time with the NFL,’ Blandino said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. ‘I’m really excited and intrigued to see how they’re going to use that and when they’re going to use it, what type of play.’
How will the XFL handle points after touchdowns?
Like it’s pre-pandemic iteration, tiered extra points are back for the 2023 season. Teams who score touchdowns will have the option to go for one point (a single down from the two-yard line), two points (from the five-yard line) or three points (from the 10-yard line). Extra point kicks are not part of the XFL rulebook. Defenses who convert turnovers and return them for touchdowns during the attempts will be awarded the same amount of points dictated by the starting point of the play.
How will fumbles out of the end zone work in the 2023 XFL season?
Another change that fans may celebrate is that fumbles that occur inside the field of play and exit the end zone will not result in a turnover and a touchback, giving the defending team possession of the ball from its own 20-yard line. Unlike the NFL, the team that fumbled the ball will retain possession from the spot of the fumble.
‘It’s a rule that comes up every once in a while during the college season, during the pro season and everybody throws up their arms,’ play-by-play commentator Tom Hart said Wednesday. ‘Social media loses their collective minds. It’s the worst rule in football, so they took it out and I think it’s absolutely genius.’
What about kickoffs in the 2023 XFL season?
In an attempt to encourage more returns on kickoffs while maintaining player safety, only the kicker and returner on kickoff plays will be allowed to move, until the ball is caught or after the ball has been on the ground for at least three seconds. This will be similar to the way the kickoff was in the 2020 XFL season. At the start of the kickoff, both teams will be lined up 5 yards apart.
Will onside kicks be part of the 2023 XFL season?
Yes, but with a twist. Onside kicks will be available during any part of the game, but teams will have the option, in the fourth quarter only, to convert a fourth-and-15 play to retain possession and keep the offense on the field.
‘The last thing I want to do is see the game come down to a kicker,’ analyst Greg McElroy said Wednesday. ‘With a 12-13% success rate, I’m not super fond of the onside kick in an end-of-game situation. The fourth-and-15, gotta-have-it situation as an alternative to the onside kicks, it’s something I’m very excited about.’
The play already proved to be a success after Week 1; in the thrilling comeback the St. Louis Battlehawks completed against the San Antonio Brahmas, St. Louis quarterback AJ McCarron faced pressure and extended the play, connecting with receiver Austin Proehl to convert the first down. It allowed St. Louis to mount the eventual game-winning touchdown drive.
How will catches be handled in the 2023 XFL season?
This is where the league is adopting a rule from college football. Any player who hauls in a reception will need to maintain possession with only one foot inbounds to complete a successful catch. In the NFL, two feet and possession of the ball are required.
Unlike college football, however, if a ball carrier slips or falls to the turf without being touched by a defender, the player is able to get up – assuming a defender has not yet contacted the player while he is on the ground – and advance the ball.
How will overtime work in the 2023 XFL season?
This is perhaps the most significant difference in the XFL rulebook from both the NFL and college football versions. If a game is tied at the end of regulation, overtime will consist of alternating attempts from the opponent’s five-yard line. Each team will have a single down to reach the end zone to secure two points. After each team has had the opportunity for three such attempts, the winner will be determined based on the team who has the most points.
If the game remains tied after those three attempts, then the alternating downs will be repeated, sudden-death style, until a winner is determined.