Another Year, No Change to the Onside Kick Rule

Onside Kick
Dec 15, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson (81) recovers the onside kick against Philadelphia Eagles tight end James Casey (85) during the fourth quarter at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. The Vikings defeated the Eagles 48-30. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

For a good chunk of NFL history, onside kicks were one of the more exhilarating plays you could see in a game. It often came in tense situations towards the end of games and resulted in chaos as 22 players attempted to grab the pigskin.

It could also come as a huge surprise to flip momentum such as when the New Orleans Saints began the second half of Super Bowl XLIV by recovering their own kickoff against the Indianapolis Colts.

However, in recent years, much of the suspense has been taken out of onside kicks. This is a result of a rule change that required kicking teams to line up five players on both sides of the field and forced kicking team members to remain stationary until after the ball had been kicked away.

Jan 21, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney (19) recovers the onside kick against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half in the AFC divisional round game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The rules were put in place to help lower concussion rates, but it also tanked recovery rates of onside kicks. As a result, over the past couple seasons, teams have proposed alternatives to the onside kick.

For example, this offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles proposed that teams be given an opportunity to convert a 4th-and-20 play rather than attempt an onside kick. The XFL put a similar rule in place, allowing teams to attempt a 4th-and-15, and it came into play a couple times in 2023. The results were electric.

Unfortunately, though, it appears that we will have to wait at least another year before we see any such rule in the NFL.

As reported by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, it appears that talks have ‘stalled’ once again at the NFL spring meetings this week. As a result, Pelissero suggests that there will not be a vote on the Eagles proposal.

This is the fourth consecutive year that talks have ended prematurely. In 2022, only three onside kicks were recovered during the regular season out of 55 attempts. It was the second time in the past three years where three or fewer onside kicks were recovered.

Ultimately, the concern with a change to this rule is probably very simple: onside kick recoveries are meant to be very difficult. Getting a free possession at the end of the game should be something that happens on a relatively infrequent basis, and perhaps simply converting a 4th-and-20 play isn’t enough to warrant such a change.

Expect this topic to pop up again next spring, but until then, the onside kick remains in play for 2023.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.