How the XFL’s & NFL’s Rules Were Different

WWE Chairman Vince McMahon's XFL lasted just one season. (Getty)

WWE Chairman Vince McMahon’s XFL lasted just one season. (Getty)

When WWE Chairman Vince McMahon launched the Xtreme Football League in 2001, much excitement was made off of its unique approach at playing football.

McMahon and the league had several notable changes from typical NFL rules, and encouraged a much rougher and fast-paced game compared to that of the competition. McMahon saw it as an opportunity to seize on the popularity of the NFL and give football fans a different feel to the game.

Because of that mission, McMahon’s XFL featured numerous differences in rules. Here are the most notable ones.

There Was No Coin Toss to Start Games


The Very First XFL ScrambleThe XFL's quirky Scramble, which took the place of the coin toss to determine who would have first choice of possession. This was the very first one, from the first XFL game ever, on February 3, 2001, and matched Jamel Williams of the Las Vegas Outlaws against Donnie Caldwell of the New York/New Jersey Hitmen.…2013-02-27T23:06:55.000Z

Instead of beginning the game with the coin toss, as the NFL does, the XFL had the idea to have one player from each team line up at the 35-yard line. The two players sprinted, following the referee’s whistle, to the 50-yard line, where the ball was placed. The player who recovered the ball after the scrum could elect if his team wanted to kick or receive to start the game.

The PAT Was Eliminated, Instead Requiring a Pass or Run

The extra point had become a normality in the NFL until it changed the rule in 2015 and required kickers to boot a PAT from the 15-yard line. The result has made the play a lot more interesting, as there are now plenty of games where kickers miss an extra point.

The XFL was at the forefront of changing the PAT system, as its rules stated that there would be no extra-point kicks after touchdowns. Instead, teams were required to either run or pass the ball from the 2-yard line to get an extra point.

Kick Returners Had to Run Out of the End Zone on Kickoffs

The NFL has changed its policy to aid kick returners’ safety on the plays. It moved the spot of kickoffs up and encouraged players to take a knee in the end zone, giving his team the ball at the 25-yard line.

The XFL encouraged — and required — players to return kickoffs out of the end zone, unless the ball went through the end zone and out of bounds on the kickoff.

Only One Foot Was Required Inbounds For a Reception

Similar to the college game, just one foot was required to be inbounds for a catch to be ruled successful in the XFL. In comparison, the NFL requires two feet to touch inbounds in order for it to be ruled a successful catch.

The NCAA OT System Was Used


XFL's Best Game Finishes of 2001The XFL sure had its moments but for most fans the ones they remember were the games that came down to the wire. Who could forget the San Francisco Demon kicker hitting the winning field goal with just seconds left. How about the Chicago Enforcers last second touchdown to defeat the Las Vegas Outlaws at…2012-03-04T22:08:39.000Z

The NFL has toyed with switching its overtime system in the past, and did so in 2012. Previously, overtimes were played with the first team to score a field goal, touchdown or safety winning the game. But the change initiated by the NFL gave the team on defense first in the overtime an opportunity to tie — or win — if the offensive team scores just a field goal. If that team scores a touchdown, however, the game is over.

The XFL’s overtime rules mirrored the NCAAs, with each team having at least one possession with a maximum of four downs from the 20-yard line — unless a defensive touchdown is scored on the first possession. The change in the OT rules for the XFL from the college game was if the first team that scores a touchdown does so in less than four downs, the other team can only use that many plays to answer the score.

No Fair Catches Were Allowed


XFL Fan Picks – Hit of The Year and Finish of The YearXFL Fan Picks – Hit of The Year and Finish of The Year2008-08-14T00:36:22.000Z

One of the major rules differences between the XFL and NFL was that there were no fair catches allowed in the former. However, the punt returner was allotted a 5-yard zone that the kicking team couldn’t enter into until the ball was touched. Also, any punt that went further than 25 yards was ruled a live ball and could be recovered by either of the teams.



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