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Where can I find NFL rules for a given historical year?


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I've been looking on the web for NFL rules in specific historical years of the late 1960s, so that I can play games in throwback eras.

But all I ever seem to be able to find are summarizes of rule *changes* that happened at various points in history (for example, that the modern "slingshot" design goal posts became official in 1967 to replace the H style).

That only helps if one already knows all the preexisting rules from that period that did not change.

What I need is a snapshot of the all the actual rules that were in effect at that time. Does anyone know of any links to the old rulebooks?

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I feel your pain. I have tried to find them as well. It's is virtually impossible to find a complete rule book from the sixties.

Basically, goal post were on the goal line. Kickoffs were from the 40. There was a 30 second play clock. The NFL did not have a 2 point conversion. The AFL did. An incomplete pass in the end zone on fourth down resulted in a touchback and the ball came out to the 20 yard line. A missed field goal from beyond the 20 was returned to the 20 yard line. 

You can pick up on some of the rules by watching old games on youtube. 

If you have a specfic question about a certain rule, I will try to find an answer. I have several references that maybe I can find an answer for you. 

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Thanks, nefgm! 

When kickoffs were from the 40, where did the receiving team have to set up? Were there detailed rules as today about a restraining line, or a minimum number of players at a certain distance, etc.?

Also, what were the coverage vs. receiver rules as far as contact went prior to the pass in the air? 

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Receiving team's restraining line was 10 yards in advance of the Kicking team's receiving line. making it the 50-yard line. I don't think there were any restrictions. other than not crossing the restraining line before the ball was kicked. Most of today's rules that restrict positioning and a minimum number of players at a certain distance are for player safety to minimize the number of injuries on kickoff plays. 

Here is an article on kickoff rules: Chronology of kickoff rules changes – Football Zebras

Here is an article on pass interference: Pass Interference (pigskindispatch.com)

Apparently prior to 1974, contact between players was allowed anywhere on the field prior to the pass being thrown. 

Here is a statement from a 1972 Digest of NFL Rules

Pass Interference

1. Restriction for the passing team starts with the snap of the ball, and the restriction for the defensive team starts when the ball leave's the passer's hand and ends when the ball is touched by anyone. 


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Coach, may I ask if you are going to play electric football by the electric football rules of that time also?

A lot of things were invented in that time to make the game better.  The fundamental gameplay was left in tact.

I found that the procedural gameplay mechanics of the “pre-1994” rules can meld with any rules of football. 

So if you’re playing with just “teams and footballs”, enjoy. 

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