When it comes to the possible elimination of kickoffs, there’s currently only one idea: Greg Schiano’s proposal to give the team that otherwise would be kicking off possession at its own 30, with the down-and-distance set to fourth-and-15.
Both Commissioner Roger Goodell and Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the Competition Committee, have said that the kickoffs-for-punts swap will be discussed in the offseason. There are two other potential tweaks to the kickoff that will be on the table.
NFL executive V.P. of football operations Ray Anderson tells NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that the powers-that-be also will discuss moving the kickoff point another five yards forward, to the 40. (Last year, kickoffs were moved from the 30 to the 35.) The other proposal would entail the placement of a weight limit on kickoff and kick-return teams.
The idea of a weight limit on kickoffs has been kicked around for years, emerging in the aftermath of the neck injury suffered by former Bills tight end Kevin Everett in 2007. Though it seems a little goofy on the surface, the use of a weight limit would reduce the impacts between players who are running at top speed in opposite directions. It’s basic physics involving the forces generated as players instinctively dip their helmets at the moment of collision, placing extreme pressure on the C3-C4 area of the spine.
Those bones can break and then injure the spinal cord, causing temporary or permanent paralysis.
Other ideas we’ve mentioned in the past include expanding the game-day rosters, so that players who dress primarily to provide depth on offense or defense won’t be pressed into service on special teams.
Also, the kickoff point could remain at the 35 with the kicking team’s players starting their pursuit from the 40, with no running start. This would reduce the ability of the players to get to top speed before encountering other players.
The fact that the league is spending so much time on this issue should be regarded as a clear sign that change is coming. The only questions are what they will be and when they will be implemented.