Plenty of people have objected to the NFL’s apparent intent to eliminate or further minimize the kickoff. Count former NFL V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira among them.
Pereira, who now serves as the FOX rules analyst, calls the possible extinction of the kickoff “ridiculous” in a column at FOXSports.com.
The comment applies not only to the potential substitute (i.e., placement of the ball at the 30, with the team that would be kicking the ball facing fourth down and 15), but also to the concept of getting rid of the kickoff generally.
“After sitting through 10 years’ worth of competition committee meetings, I think they will look at this proposal, roll their eyes, and move on to the next subject within minutes,” Pereira said.
We’re not so sure. The league has been dropping hints about giving the kickoff the boot for a while, with Giants co-owner John Mara saying earlier this year that the league is evolving toward the disappearance of the play. The league office has made clear its intention to reduce if not eradicate the hazards that come from kickoffs.
Pereira’s primary point is that the play remains exciting, as demonstrated by the fact that Mara’s team generated 227 kickoff-return yards from David Wilson, a rookie running back who has spent most of the year trying to find his way out of the doghouse. (The Saints, in contrast, would surely vote to eliminate the kickoff, retroactive to Sunday.)
But the proposal fashioned by Bucs coach Greg Schiano would be exciting, too, replacing punt returns, which are hardly boring and which rarely would result in touchbacks, unlike kickoffs from the 35. Throw in the fact that the onside kick would be replaced with a play from scrimmage that could allow the team who scored to keep the ball by gaining 15 yards, and the excitement remains, if not intensifies.
The reality is that the only way to get rid of the high-speed collisions that sometimes fracture necks and induce paralysis is to get rid of the kickoff, or further revise it so that players can’t get up to top speed as they run toward each other like a long-separated couple meeting in a meadow.
The league seems to be intent on doing it. And the strongest message in that regard would come from Mara reiterating his beliefs on the kickoff the day after his franchise reaped tremendous benefits from it.