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Rule changes for the 2015 Pro Bowl

For player safety and exhibition purposes, there are restrictions on formations, pass coverage, and rushing the quarterback or kicker.




The NFL has furnished Football Zebras with the rules modifications in place for the Pro Bowl. For player safety and exhibition purposes, there are restrictions on formations, pass coverage, and rushing the quarterback or kicker. The formation and coverage schemes are monitored by Dean Blandino and an unnamed assistant coach for compliance, and the referee will be notified for warning either team; egregious or repeated violations are a penalty. John Parry is the referee.

Coaches are not allowed to make any modifications through side agreements.

The major rule differences are that, for the second straight year, there are no kickoffs and the end of the quarter terminates the possession in progress. Following a score or at the beginning of the quarter, possession starts at the 25-yard line. Each quarter will have a two-minute warning with possession alternating each quarter.

To continue the trial from preseason, extra-point kicks are snapped from the 17-yard line. The goalposts are also four feet narrower.

The intentional grounding rules are relaxed, and the quarterback must throw toward the line of scrimmage to avoid the sack. Also, only defensive ends and tackles may rush on passing plays. The defense is not permitted to blitz.

Replay reviews will be allowed for the first time in the Pro Bowl, as the league is testing a tablet-based system, instead of the current stone-tablet-based system under the hood of the replay equipment.

Formations and pass coverage schemes are simplified packages.

Standard formations

Offense must line up in formation without shifts or motion. Once the offense lines up, they are required to use that formation.

  • A tight end must be in every formation, but he may be flexed on the line of scrimmage.
  • No more than two receivers on either side of the ball
  • A back can line up as a receiver as long as he is not a third receiver on either side

Defense must present a standard 4–3 defense with even spacing.

  • Line slant is permitted
  • Linebackers must be in a two-point stance; in goal-line situations, a three-point stance is permitted
  • Stacked linebackers must be 2 yards off the line of scrimmage
  • Four defensive backs
  • Deep middle safety must be between the hash marks

Kicking formations must be aligned evenly without gaps.

  • Limit of three defensive rushers per side
  • On punts, only three of the six rushers may be on the line of scrimmage
  • Field-goal and extra-point attempts will allow the nose tackle to be the seventh rusher

Pass coverage

  • Man-to-man coverage by the free safety
  • Bump and run permitted
  • Three deep zone: strong safety rotation only into flat
  • Cover-2 zone permitted
  • On a balanced offensive formation, the rotation of the zone defense can be to either side

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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