NFL rules will now treat head-first dives like feet-first slides

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For many years, NFL rules have allowed ball carriers, usually quarterbacks, to protect themselves by sliding feet-first. But this year that rule is changing — a significant change that has received little attention.

In 2018, the NFL is considering a player to have given himself up if he dives head first, the same way a player has given himself up when he slides feet first. That means a player can’t be hit after he goes into a head-first dive, and it also means the ball will be spotted at the point where the player began to dive, rather than at the point where the player finished moving forward.

“A quarterback does not have to slide feet first to be considered to be giving himself up,” the league’s online rules say. “Regardless whether the slide is feet first or head first, as long as he gives himself up, he should receive the protections afforded to him as a player in a defenseless posture.”

It’s easy to see how big a change that will be: In the past, if a quarterback ran the ball on third-and-5, he’d usually slide feet first once he picked up the five yards, but he’d dive head-first and try to pick up the last yard if he was met by an opposing defender after gaining four yards. Now, there’s no distinction between feet first and head first.

Officials say that’s a major change.

It’s a big change this year,” line judge Rusty Baynes told ESPN. “Because if you were a runner or a quarterback and you dove head first you could, if you were untouched, get all of that slide. If you went head first. Now, you cannot. It’ll be interesting to see what happens at the goal line.”

Interesting indeed: Imagine it’s fourth-and-goal in the final seconds of the game, a quarterback whose team trails by five points drops back to pass, then sees an opening in the middle of the field, runs toward the end zone, and just as a linebacker approaches at the 1-yard line the quarterback dives head-first into the end zone. That won’t be a game-winning touchdown anymore. It will be the quarterback giving himself up at the 1-yard line. The first time that happens, there’s going to be outrage from players, coaches and fans of the losing team.

This change hasn’t received much attention because it’s technically a “point of emphasis” and not a “rule change.” But whatever you call it, it’s a major difference in the way the game of football is played. And a whole lot of people won’t be happy about it.

85 responses to “NFL rules will now treat head-first dives like feet-first slides

  1. Maybe they should just take away the ability for the QB to run at all. No forward progress past the line of scrimmage. This will help insure that golden qb’s will never get a boo boo

  2. Stupid. This means a runner can no longer leap over the line from 1 yard out. Pretty much once a runner leaves his feet without the intention of landing back on his feet he can no longer gain any yards. As a Panther fan this removes a huge part of Cam Newton’s game when at the goal line.

  3. Hopefully they only apply this in situations where a guy would also conceivably slide. No one is sliding into the end zone or for a first down but they do go head first in situations in the open field where you could reasonably see a guy sliding as well.

    Knowing the NFL though, someone’s TD is coming back.

  4. Absolutely terrible rule. This will take away some of the most dramatic and exciting plays in the game. I love when a QB has to decide whether to give himself up or dive for the goalline….keep changing 10 rules a year until the game is unrecognizable

  5. If A A Ron does it, no call, TD stands. If BuLockA does it, down at the 1 yard line. Perfectly Clear!

  6. Odds on the first team to complain this rule cost them a game? My money is on the team who thinks someone is messing with headsets.

    You know what else costs you a game? Holding, offside, RTP, DPI, OPI, false start, illegal substitution, too many men on the field, illegal motion. illegal formation, ineligible receiver downfield, unsportsmanlike conduct (i.e tripping a player on the sideline), personal foul, facemask etc.

    Should I go on or should we just accept that there are rules and they (should) apply to all teams. One thing that will be of interest. The nebulous determination of when exactly the dive began and where the ball was at that instant. Guess we still need instant replay though I don’t expect all will agree on it’s finding.

  7. “If a runner (including a quarterback) gives himself up, then he is down where the first body part touches the ground. The runner should not benefit from additional yardage after the first body part touches.”

    The runner is not down where he starts a head-first dive. The rule just means don’t hit a player diving head first. He’s given himself up and where the ball is when anything touches the ground is the spot.

  8. switchwitch59 says:
    August 4, 2018 at 9:01 am
    What does that do to the QB sneak?

    I imagine it will be determined based on if his feet are still moving him forward or if he’s just diving. No way they can mess with that, right?

  9. Another friggin awful rule. The attorneys running the league now based solely on possible liability of the owners are destroying the game, plain and simple.

    If they keep this up within 10 years the NFL will go from the most popular sport to the least popular out of football, MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS.

  10. SAFETY!
    That’s is what is all about. This is the direct result of lawyers convincing players to sue the NFL. Players cannot have it both ways, be able to play recklessly but then have the option to sue the NFL because they didn’t look out for player safety.
    This rule, and others, are designed to minimize liability for the NFL and its franchises.
    The blame lies squarely on the players (past and present), the NFLPA, and the media who stokes the fires of litigation against the NFL.

  11. If this is an attempt to insure player (primarily QBS) safety I think they really messed it up. Previously, the QB could dive forward to get that first down but now he would have to take on tacklers heads up like a fullback. I can see this rule injuring QBs, especially those who are more likely to run for 1st down yardage.

  12. escapedconvict says:
    August 4, 2018 at 9:06 am
    Also, there will be no more jumping of any kind. If a player leaps in the air for any reason they will be considered out of bounds.

    Is jumping the same as diving? More grey area with which we can “help” determine the outcome of games.

  13. rageviral says:
    August 4, 2018 at 8:55 am
    A player diving head first into the endzone is not giving themselves up. They have got to add some common sense and leeway to this.
    While I agree with your point, I fear that common sense isn’t that common in the NFL. And, you will see each officiating crew ruling this slightly differently, so there will be issues and it will likely decide some game. If the refs in that case call it a TD, the now losing defensive team will have a fit because he should not have gotten the TD, by rule.

  14. Why is everyone having a cow? It’ll be a judgement call by the ref on the players’ intent….going for the goaline won’t apply. Plus it’ll only apply to QB’s, not other ball carriers.

  15. Anybody else starting to think that the new flag football league, may eventually become the new NFL?

  16. If fans simply click on the first link in the story, they’ll see the rule. The QB is not down where he ‘begins the dive’. He is down ‘where he touches the ground after the dive’. He can’t gain any extra yardage after he first hits the ground…so players don’t have to contact him at that time.

  17. LOL @ the replies. Are people really this dense?

    This rule simply means that a player who dives headfirst can no longer get up and advance the ball. It has zero impact on plays where the runner crosses the goal line lands in the end zone.

    The only controversy will be on plays where it’s unclear whether the runner dove or slipped; it will be interesting to see see how they apply it to a diving catch by a receiver.

  18. This is hust stupid. With the slide rule the runner had the choice of whether to just take what he had or to go for it. They have removed that choice.

    And yeah, yhis is the most likely rule yet to cause a big PR blow up. The first time a game is decided (and wont be the last) because a qb dove into the endzone which lets say avoided a hit but still did finish in the end zone, yet they call it down at the 1, thats going to explode.

    And the first time a guy does that dive and makes the endzone but only because the defender then pulled up to avoid the penalty, and a td still get awarded, that too will not be pretty.

    Just givebthem their choice back. They are big boys and can make choices.

    Heres to hoping further details come out that clarifies this as not being as bad as it currently sounds.

  19. I wonder if the affects of gambling now legalized has anything to do with these convoluted rules…
    The right thing to say is of course not! But one had to wonder if it’s that’s coincidental they both start now, along with lowering the head.

  20. I can see this rule inciting a lot of defensive penalties. Those goal line or first down attempts in the trenches will result in the defenders not really knowing if the offensive player will stay on his feet or dive forward. This isn’t like plays that occur in the open field where there’s a little bit of time for the defender to think about it. In the trenches they will be compelled to charge hard and even go low themselves to plug any hole. Remember, low man wins. So if the ball carrier dives forward, there’s no way a defender will be able to pull back in time. So I see a lot of ball carriers still getting hit because it’s asking the impossible for defenders in close proximity to plug up the play and still be able to pull back in a split second. They really haven’t thought this out very well at all.

    One other thing: Can’t it be said that a player diving forward is leading with the head (helmet)? What a mess!

  21. So let me get this straight: 4th and goal from the five, the QB rolls out in a race to the pylon against a defender in the endzone… and if the QB launches himself headfirst with the ball outstretched to try and break the plane, the ball will actually be spotted where he began to dive so that even if the ball breaks the plane at the end of the dive, it’s not a TD? And on top of that, if the defender tries to tackle the QB to keep him out of the endzone as he’s diving with outstretched arms, it’s a penalty (and 4th down would be replayed with half the distance to the goal)?

    This makes no sense at all and these goal line issues could easily be avoided with a tweak of the rule. But the NFL being the NFL, they’ll likely move forward with it anyway. Remember: If fans are focused on complaining about calls on the field, they’re not complaining about CTE, violence against women, the anthem issue, etc. I see you Goodell.

  22. The game speed at the NFL level will make it nearly impossible for a defender to distinguish the intent of the running QB. The slide required an entirely different body movement from QB’s that allowed defenders to recognize the QB is done advancing the ball, thus giving the defender a chance to disengage from contact. TERRIBLE RULE CHANGE.

  23. If a player we’re giving themselves up with a dive… why wouldn’t they just slide?

    If a player dives, there’s a reason… first down, touchdown, additional yards… the guys making these rule changes have no clue about football.

  24. Does this mean any ball carrier cannot “wave” the ball over the plane of the goal line??? I believe the ball carrier in that case has given himself up. I like the fact that the ball carrier has to carry the ball over the goal line not “wave” it.

  25. >amurdora says:
    >August 4, 2018 at 9:01 am
    >Hopefully they only apply this in situations [agreed with rest of comment]

    That is the problem with the NFL. The situation with these rule changes
    depends on which crew calls which game. I predict terrible outcomes,
    longer games and lower quality of play.

  26. What about the Derek Carr play against Dallas last year? He dives forward for the pylon to score the td and fumbles through the end zone for a touch back. is the play dead as soon as he starts the dive? what if he loses the football during the process of giving himself up? is that a penalty on the dallas safety for the contact?

  27. edwicy says:
    August 4, 2018 at 9:33 am
    Anybody else starting to think that the new flag football league, may eventually become the new NFL?

    I was watching the flag league on NFL network a couple of weeks ago, and texted a friend and told him to turn on the network and se the future NFL.

  28. If fans simply click on the first link in the story, they’ll see the rule. The QB is not down where he ‘begins the dive’. He is down ‘where he touches the ground after the dive’. He can’t gain any extra yardage after he first hits the ground…so players don’t have to contact him at that time

    I didn’t click the link because I like to react without the facts so I just read your comment which helped me! Basically this is free yardage. If a QB dives, a defensive player can’t touch him and he gets all the yardage until he hits the ground. This seems like a playable strategy to win games. Bootleg and dive for 4 yards. Bootleg and dive for 4 yards. Bootleg and dive for 4 yards. First down. Wash, rinse, repeat.

  29. So how does the QB sneak work? Is it a situation where the offense team automatically picks up 2 yards with no play being executed?

  30. Interesting – isn’t that leading with the helmet?

    This league is so f’d up and the rule changes are being put together with duct tape.

  31. Nice 4th and goal from the two just lower your head and dive untouched into the end zone the worst that happens is that you take a normal football hit and gain an automatic first down. Game has been RUINED

  32. A player slightly leaning forward will be considered to be in the process of giving himself up as he dives in a position with the intent of making a football move.

    A player significantly leaning forward will be considered to be with the intent of and with purposes for giving up the intent of leaning slightly.

    A player who is appearing to trip with the intent of making a football move will be treated as a defenseless player with the probability of appearing to give himself up.

    A player who is beginning to trip but then leans slightly towards the sideline will be considered to be making the football move in the process or tripping and diving with the intent of making a forward pass.


  33. This is completely totally asinine. QBs always dive for the yard marker while going out of bounds. Now, they’re going to force then to stay up and take even more direct hard hits. More QB injuries.

  34. What is the point of changing the rule? Idiotic. There will be more QB injuries because they will have to take more hits.

  35. This game is going to be almost impossible to watch anymore. All it’s going to be is flags.

  36. Can they kinda jump sideways and then roll into the end zone? Like a modified Fosbury Flop? Or will that be too dangerous because it might “hurt” someone’s feelings.

  37. NFL is dead set on making the game a shell of itself. This rule change along with the helmet rule will make up 10 times for the confusion of the catch rule.

    Last year was the first year in 10 years, Sunday wasn’t reserved for football.

  38. One of the biggest problems with the NFL rules is that people with supposed authority (TV commentators, writers, etc.) don’t understand the rules they are commenting on. Most of what MDS says regarding the new emphasis is incorrect if you read it. A player diving for a first down or TD will be down where the first body part touches the ground, not where the dive starts and he may be contacted by a defender before he hits the ground but not after.

    From the link:

    If a runner (including a quarterback) gives himself up, then he is down where the first body part touches the ground. The runner should not benefit from additional yardage after the first body part touches. Defenders do not have to go down to initiate contact to stop a runner from gaining more yards after he contacts the ground.
    Quarterbacks and all runners must give themselves up early, and if a defender has committed to a tackle, contact may occur. However, that contact cannot be late or to the head or neck area of the player who gave himself up.
    A quarterback does not have to slide feet first to be considered to be giving himself up. Regardless whether the slide is feet first or head first, as long as he gives himself up, he should receive the protections afforded to him as a player in a defenseless posture.

  39. The “rule change” I just read says you can dive head first and where you touch down is where the ball will be spotted. It just eliminates yardage you might gain if you dive head first and then somehow manage to slide for extra yardage after you hit the ground. I think if you are playing on an extremely muddy field you might be able to slide for some extra yards if you dive head first, but under normal circumstances you will be down.

  40. Once that gets straightened out, one might dive into any confusion about exactly what it means if a QB, as runner, is diving head-first–gaining yardage–while being given “protections afforded to him as a player in a defenseless posture.” I’m honestly not sure, and I’d genuinely like to hear an informed opinion after a more careful reading.

  41. The only way that this rule could possibly work is if the player is down at the START of the dive. If the current rule for a slide (down when ANY part of the body touches) is enforced, then this is a free first down at anything less than 2 yards. Just dive. No one can hit you or it is a first down on penalty.

    Great comment earlier on Derek Carr Vs Dallas. Under this rule, that is either a penalty on Dallas or an automatic TD. If you thought that the “Touchback Rule on fumbles through the End Zone” made no sense, you should be appalled by this one.

    Length of dive needs to be added to the Combine measurables.

  42. Some on here are saying that a runner who leaps is down at the point they come back down to the ground and cannot be hit. If that is the rule, then every run play would be good for several extra yards just by the runner leaping before they can be tackled. Since hitting the runner is a penalty once they leap, the runner about to be stopped can just leap forward, the defender has to get out of the way and allow the leap or be penalized.
    That cannot be the actual rule. That would be absurd.

  43. I think its a good thing, the ball should be considered dead at the start of the dive. Defenses have been getting screwed when a QB dives head first, then gets hit while diving and cries for and gets a flag(Aaron Rodgers). Its also annoying when a QB dives, then gets up an runs(Aarond Rodgers) because defenders were too afraid to hit him while he was diving.

  44. Ok. I read the rule and it really does say the QB gets to leap forward and it is a penalty to hit them and they get all the yardage they can fly, which can be about 3-5 yards for most QB.
    According to the rule, if a runner leaves their feet, they get the full flight distance and cannot be hit. Bizarre? Which team will be first to go to the refs and tell them they are using the rule and demand the refs call the rule as written?

  45. .
    player DIVES for the first down marker…
    Defender dives to stop them from landing there… FLAG.

    So every single 4th and 1 is an automatic 1st down either by the defender just standing and watching or the defender trying to DEFEND and getting a FLAG for doing their job.

  46. Just another ambiguous rule that refs can use to decide the outcome of games.
    Why not just cut out any actually play and just use the coin toss to declare a winner?

  47. Based on what others have explained after reading the actual rule, it appears the headline is correct but the analysis of the change in the post is off base.

    But …. if a player really is granted field position based on where he first LANDS on a slide and not where he leaves the ground, this has always been a BS rule and a huge advantage for the defense. It will be even worse on dives.
    You can’t hit the guy once he dives. Think of Csm taking a shot gun snap from the 1. Two steps towards the line and he dives over the pile.
    He has given himself and the secondary can no longer jump to meet him and stop him?
    If it’s really where he lands, and you can’t touch him after he dives, the defense is going to complain, not the offense.

  48. Give the QB a red flag they can snap on to the top of their helmet. With the flag on, it means they cannot run for yardage, and the defense must use “gentle tackling” rules (or 2 hands on the body). With the flag off, it means they can run but can also be tackled like any running back. Let them start a drive with the flag either on or off. Give them one flag change per drive (so they can threaten to run when at the goal line).

  49. The rule says regardless if the “slide” is head first or feet first. So you can still dive in the air and advance the ball. If a QB slides head first on the ground then he is down.

  50. Well if its New England they will create and misinterpret some vague rule to make it a TD. Everyone else the balll will placed at the one yard line.

  51. Well if its New England they will create and misinterpret some vague rule to make it a TD. Everyone else the ball will placed at the one yard line.

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