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Rule changes for 2017 Pro Bowl

Rules modifications in effect for the 2017 Pro Bowl




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. Jerome Boger is the referee.

The major rule difference is that, for the third straight year, there are no kickoffs. Following a score or at the beginning of the half, possession starts at the 25-yard line. In previous years, the end of a quarter would also be treated as an end to a possession; however this will not be in effect this year.

A new rule change in 2017 is to shave 2 seconds off the time between downs, by using a 38/25 play clock: 38 seconds between downs, but 25 seconds when there is a timeout or other stoppage.

There are no intentional grounding rules. Also, only defensive ends and tackles may rush on passing plays, but those must be on the same side of the ball. The defense is not permitted to blitz. All blindside blocks and blocks below the waist are illegal.

Replay reviews will be allowed; previously there was replay in the Pro Bowl only when new equipment tests were being conducted.

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

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.
  • The running back may be flexed to a flex or H-back position, but formation must be balanced and must not be a third receiver on either side
  • No more than two wide receivers on either side of the ball

Defense must present a standard 4–3 defense with even spacing with only an “under” or “over” variation.

  • One linebacker may be on the line of scrimmage, but cannot substitute for an end or tackle, and cannot rush the quarterback.
  • Stacked linebackers must be 2 yards off the line of scrimmage
  • Four defensive backs
  • Deep middle safety must be aligned inside the hash marks.
  • No nickle or dime packages, but 3 cornerbacks may line up in a 4-man secondary

Kicking formations must be aligned according to standard formation rules, plus:

  • Limit of three defensive rushers per side
  • Single-press coverage on the gunner is only allowed, but a second defender must be at least 5 yards off 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 (except those in the middle third), unless the coverage assignment begins blocking
  • 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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