One of the more exciting plays in football last year was a defender leaping over the line to block a field goal. Starting in 2017, that will no longer be allowed. At their meeting in March, the owners voted to amend the rulebook language so that leaping over the line of scrimmage will not be allowed by members of the defense who start off the line of scrimmage.
Rule 12-3-1(r) now states that players are prohibited from the following:
Running forward and leaping across the line of scrimmage in an obvious attempt to block a field goal or Try Kick, unless the player was in a stationary position on the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped. A player who is behind the line of scrimmage before, or at the snap, may run forward and leap, provided he does not cross the line of scrimmage or land on players.
What this means is that players will still be allowed to jump straight up to block a kick, but will not be able to take a running start and jump over the line of blockers. Linemen who are stationary at the snap will also still be allowed to leap, and there is no restriction on landing on players. Using a teammate to gain leverage is also still illegal. The penalty for violating the rule will be a foul for unsportsmanlike conduct which is 15 yards, and if the kick is doesn’t score, it’s an automatic first down. If the kick is good, the kicking team can either enforce on the kickoff or take the points off the board and have an automatic first down.
The main purpose of the rule is player safety, as the league does not want players either being upended as they jump over or landing on other players. This rule was also changed in the NCAA, and their rules committee worked closely with the NFL to develop the wording and philosophy of the new rule.