Josh Cribbs, Devin Hester aren’t happy with kickoff changes


With the kickoff point moving from the 30 back to the 35, two of the top kick returners aren’t happy with the change.


“I’m very upset about it,” Josh Cribbs of the Browns told Adam Schein and Rich Gannon of Sirius NFL Radio.  “I highly disagree [with] the rule changes. Especially while there’s no CBA in place I’m just baffled by their reasoning behind it, you know, changing the rules. Of course I know the reasoning behind it.   I just disagree.   Trying to make the game safer, I commend their efforts.  I just think it could’ve been handled a lot better.  Changing those rules will affect a lot of people including myself and incoming college [players] as well.”

Cribbs thinks, as do many, that this is part of the process of laying the foundation for an 18-game season.

“One of our main reasons for not having this two-game extension is because of our player safety,” Cribbs said.  “We feel the season is long enough.   That’s one of our biggest things, is our contracts aren’t guaranteed.  So if we get hurt, if something happens to us, we’re like, hey, this two-game extension cannot happen.  So their take is, hey, we’re gonna make the game a lot safer.  If you look at the past eight years, all the rule changes with the wedge, hitting a guy defenseless and this, this and that, the rules, the games have been changing a lot so they can add this.  But they’re not seeing how it is changing people’s playing styles.  You’re asking guys to change up the way they’ve been playing their whole careers, their whole lives, and you’re asking them to do stuff that didn’t even get them into the NFL.   This is a great sport already.   We know what we signed up for.”

Cribbs is concerned that an exciting aspect of the game is being jeopardized.

“They always say in basketball free throws win games,” Cribbs said.  “Well, you know what?  In football special teams win games.  It doesn’t matter how good your offense or defense is, if they give up one kickoff return, one fumble on punt return, that changes the whole game drastically.  You win and lose games on special teams and that’s what me and Devin Hester have been able to do for our teams.  So if you take that out of it, I mean, you lose the excitement [of] all these 100-yard returns.”

Speaking of Hester, the man who holds the record for career punt and kickoff returns also isn’t happy.

“They might want to put up the arena nets, because they are gonna be a lot of balls going in the end zone,” Hester told Waddle & Silvy on ESPN 1000 in Chicago.

Hester fears the impact of the change on the Bears’ offensive efforts.  “I think it could hinder us a little bit because we dwell on good field position. . . .  They’ve gone too far, they’re changing the whole fun of the game.”

We’re not sure that the “whole fun” of the game will be changing.  The reality, as to Cribbs and Hester, is that the change in the rule potentially undermines their relevance and thus diminishes their value.  In the end, it could result in money coming out of their pockets.

36 responses to “Josh Cribbs, Devin Hester aren’t happy with kickoff changes

  1. This is a stupid rule change. NFL says it is for players safety, but usually when you make a change you explain HOW the change is going to help players safety.

    However, I think this rule change may add a little more of a twist to kickoffs. Players will not just be able to catch the ball and run straight ahead because they will be 5 or more yards in the endzone. Special teams coaches are going to have to get more creative on how to return kickoffs.

    The players and coaches are going to have adjust to this new rule change, no matter how stupid or lack of an explanation the NFL gives.

  2. So the owners are demonized for wanting to pull back revenue sharing from the last CBA by just complaining about it, but it’s ok for the players to pull back the allowance they gave to the league to switch to 18 games by just complaining about it?

  3. This isn’t going to change the game significantly. Most likely 10% more touchbacks. Big deal.

  4. They should add another rule where a kicker can kick the call out of bounds, as long as the ball actually bounces between the endzone and 20 yard line. If the ball goes out of bounds after doing this, then the receiving team starts there. If the ball goes out of bounds without bouncing – or beyond the 20 yard line, then the receiving team gets the ball at their 35 yard line or where the ball bounced out (returning team choice).

    This should allow teams a more tactical angle on kick offs.

  5. I guess we will see just how good they are.

    Take the challenge and let’s see what you got.

  6. Why aren’t they happy? I mean now player safety comes first. What’s that, they want to get paid for being return men, aww I thought you are fighting for safety measures.

  7. Cribbs: “We feel the season is long enough. That’s one of our biggest things, is our contracts aren’t guaranteed.”
    “We know what we signed up for.”

    Once again the players make it clear that the 18 game schedule is about money, not safety. If the league guarantees their contracts they will be more than happy to play 2 more games. Just show them the money.

  8. I agree with both Cribbs and Hester…the NFL might as well just have the offense start at the 20 yard line at all times because it is going to be touchback after touch back after touchback.

    They are taking away the most electrifying play in the game from the most electrifying players in the game; both Cribbs and Hester had down years last because teams would kick away from them and now they are going to have zero chance to have a staduim erupt when they take a kickoff back 98 yards. Now what, fair catch the kickoff at the 4 year line?

  9. Here’s a novel idea – quit bitching and when they kickoff 5 yards deep in the endzone, just return it anyway!

  10. I’m not so sure this will actually significantly increase the number of touchbacks. I assume the 5-yard approach applies to the kicker, too. Most kickers/KO specialists use a longer approach to get the distance.

  11. The rule change sucks. Goodell has gone balistic in the last year and he and the rule change commission are really screwing things up. It’s going to take years for the next commissioner to fix all the damage Goodell has done (and will do).

  12. All the rule changes that that have been implemented in the last few years for player safety are avoiding the main problem: (say it with me folks)….THE EQUIPMENT.

    It probably seems like going backwards to a lot of people but until the equipment is regressed back to the days where it is simply PROTECTION (not weaponry) more and more silly and game destroying rule changes will have to be put in place to address injury concerns.

  13. The league screws up again.

    When is the last time you saw a KR get seriously injured? It’s a myth that it’s significantly more dangerous than other sorts of plays.

  14. @eyephartud

    For as long as I can remember, the equipment has been used as a weapon, dating long before the ‘Chuck Cecil’ rule was put into place in the mid 1990s (not sure of the exact date).

    However, no matter what rules are put into place, players will always go for the knockout blow because solid tackles don’t make the ESPN highlight reel.

    As to Cribbs and Hester, kick returners found a way to score before the kickoff was moved back to the 30 yard line, so they’ll have their opportunities.

  15. 18 game schedule is off of the table and was in the owners last proposal. People call players greedy and when owners step up and change the rules you complain about that too. It’s the owners game and they’re showing it. If you don’t know the issues why comment at all? If the game is so easy and the players such babies who’s stopping you complainers from going out and playing the game? So many say that you’d “play for free” Let’s see it. Should be easy, after all it’s the owners “who’re taking all the risk”

  16. @ beerdonuts

    If the helmet hardness and padding was modified so that players no longer felt comfortable attacking with it, I feel quite sure it would reduce the amount of head and spine injuries which seems to have become the focus of injury concern the last few years.

  17. In other words, players are concerned about safety unless it affects their paycheck. Is Cribbs or Hester going to be worth as much now? Probably not; therefore, they are against this rule. There are still going to be a few kickers that can boot it out of the endzone, and there are still going to be those that can now kick it to the endzone instead of three yards short. Now they can be punt return specialists instead of overall ball players.

  18. Don’t worry, Devin. Remember that, Lovie is “here to beat Green Bay”.

    That sure worked out great, LOL.

  19. Hester makes a valid point. Field position is also a crucial part of the game that has been impacted. The”hidden yards” as they call it. Teams like the Dolphins, Jaguars, Cheifs, and 49r’s will be the most impacted, all run first teams. This also will result in more offensive plays, longer games, and lead to more injuries due to fatigue. I don’t think they looked at this from all angles. Stupid, Stupis Stupid!

  20. I don’t mind the rule change as it’s there to prevent the serious injuries that can happen on kickoffs (if you were on the return team in highschool you know what it’s like to get crushed by monsters running full speed into you).

    What I don’t get is why the hell they’re making rule changes when the CBA isn’t even in place. You’re making rules for a season that might not even happen. Here’s an idea, instead of having meetings about new rules how about you get the hell into meetings about the CBA and get that hashed out, that’s much more important right now than friggin’ 5 yards on a kickoff. Worry about rule changes once you know their will be football. The NFL is really starting to irritate me with this crap

  21. In case you haven’t noticed, Goodell is an idiot.

    I fear for how he wants to change the game next.

    If the Owners don’t wise up and get rid of this fool, the game will eventually resemble laser tag.

  22. This has nothing to do with Player Safety, this has to do with $$$. Players like Cribbs and Hester can demand more $$$ based on the things they do on Special Teams. With more balls going into the endzone means less kick off returns and less money they have to pay these guys. End of Story! SMH at player safety but lets add 2 more games…

  23. This is what the players do not understand

    The rule change was made at an owners meeting not the hired help meeting

  24. I don’t like this BS rule, which will further limit kickoff returns. I have some suggestions to help even it out, if they’re going with this rule.

    1. Allow the receiving team to try and block the kickoff. Once the kicker moves toward the ball, the receiving team can move forward to attempt to block. Making contact with the kicker will carry the same roughing penalty as in a punting situation. This will force the kicker to shorten his run-up to the ball, thereby shortening the distance he can kick it.


    2. Eliminate the option of taking a knee in the endzone for the receiving team. It is a safety if you get tackled or touched “down” in the endzone. In conjunction with that, make it illegal to kick the ball out of the endzone. The consequence is that the receiving team starts at the 40 yd line. The same holds if it is kicked out of bounds prior to the goal line. If it hits in the endzone and kicks out of bounds after that, the ball goes to the 20 yd line.

    I think either of these options would help to keep at least some intrigue in the whole kickoff process and not turn it into an exercise in futility.

  25. in 1993, the year before they changed the kickoff to the 30, there were 18 total returns for touchdown, 4 of which were kickoffs. in 1994, the year after the rule change, there were 32 total returns for touchdowns. 16 were kickoffs.

  26. Everyone, at first, I was just as ticked off about the rule change as most of you. But after taking some time to reflect, let’s face a few facts.

    1. We do not yet know EXACTLY how many more touchbacks will take place. Some kickers still don’t have the leg to get the ball to the endzone now, so maybe it won’t affect ALL teams. However, what it may change is what teams find value in kickers. I think this might excite a push for teams to carry kickers with big legs to inhibit explosive kick returners from taking it to the house. Will this mean extra kickers on a roster, or maybe a push for more well rounded kickers? I guess we will see.

    2. Sure, it completely changes the game for kick returners like Hester and Cribbs, among several others. But, it more so affects teams with inconsistent offenses. Being a Bears fan, we looked to Hester and Manning to make big plays to get us good field position because quite frankly, our offenses needed the help. So I think you can see inconsistent offensive teams with good special team lose some steam. Why do you think Belichick supports the rule? Having a QB like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers makes field position almost pointless because they are your playmakers, not the kick returners.

    3. On the issue of safety, it’s five yards. I highly doubt saftey is the real incentive behind this for two reasons: A. It was handed down by the COMPETITION committee, not the Players Union. However, without one of those, it looks like the NFL will be responsible for making player safety decisions. All in all, it seems like a power play to edge players and union reps to come to the table.

    Sorry for the long post, but I think a complicated issue like this really requires a lot of different perspectives. I’m not sold on the rule either, but I guess I won’t know its effects until we really see it in action. IF we get to at all.

  27. I’m not convinced it is going to lead to a significant % increase in touchbacks. A key rule change with moving the kick off to the 35 yard line is the kicker can no longer take a running start past 5 yards (just like the rest of the coverage team). Since most NFL kickers are back 9-10 yards, cutting this in half is a lot of momentum and speed that will be lost, which of course helps drives the ball.

    Here is the blog post today from Mike Pereira stating the rule change,

    “The NFL owners voted at their 2011 annual meeting to move the kickoff back to the 35-yard line and took away the kicker’s right to get a running start. Now, they must line up within 5 yards of the 35-yard line.”

  28. sixaspadz says:
    ***Mar 23, 2011 8:47 AM
    I agree with both Cribbs and Hester…the NFL might as well just have the offense start at the 20 yard line at all times because it is going to be touchback after touch back after touchback.

    They are taking away the most electrifying play in the game from the most electrifying players in the game; both Cribbs and Hester had down years last because teams would kick away from them and now they are going to have zero chance to have a staduim erupt when they take a kickoff back 98 yards. Now what, fair catch the kickoff at the 4 year line***=================
    I agree sixaspadz …I certainly don’t have sympathy for most players, but when you see a guy like Hester have an opportunity to run it back, WOW, the game is worth watching.

    Another note: the NFL should mandate that owners build their own stadiums. Don’t expect the public to flip a good chunk of the bill. Ticket prices are high enough, and those of us on the couch pay enough for the cost of the ads as well as TV ticket packages. This is an overpriced commodity now, thanks to TV, Advertisers, owners and yes-players. We fans should suck it up and boycott every single games to show who’s boss! But so many don’t really care because they’re loaded or are using someone else’s money.

    The NFL (top to bottom) has become corrupt.

  29. laxer37 says:
    Mar 23, 2011 7:47 AM

    The Browns just lost their only weapon.

    And you just proved that you’re clueless. Cribbs hasn’t been “dangerous” to opposing teams for a couple years now. Last year, players like Peyton Hillis, Colt McCoy, TJ Ward, and Joe Haden contributed much more to the Browns limited success than Josh Cribbs did.

    Next, you’ll probably post something about how the Browns best D player is Shaun Rogers.

    Gotta love it when PFT posters try to be clever, spouting insults based on what was relavent to a given team 2 years earlier…

  30. Cribbs is cracking me up. I’m a Browns fan and hate to dis the guy, but I think Cribbs’ feelings would be a lot more relavent if he were even a shell of the kick returner he used to be. What does it matter if he has to catch the ball 5 yards further back when all of his returns are for 10 yards, he runs right towards tacklers, and goes down on first contact nearly every time anyway!

    Having to start 5 yards back will just make the Browns typical starting LOS go from horrible to pathetic. No a big dif.

    Let Haden return kicks. Maybe our return game will… uh.. return.

  31. Well, ill get to the kickoffs ina sec but, broncobeta man, i dont know whos blogs your misinterpretting or radio hosts that youve been hearing but i dont recall ever hearing an NFL player, or ya know a football player anywhere for that matter(college, highschool, canadian, PROs) that actually COMPLAINED about how “unsafe” the game is. Ive heard time and time again, reminisent of Any Given Sunday, that they know what their signing up for when they litterally SIGN the contract. I truly dont believe thay give a crap about safety, if they do say “thats not safe” its to spite the rule makers for claiming safety as the reason, and usually just to prove a point, Ala Chris Harris speaking on the 18 game schedual a while back, as i recall that was a Complaint about the Shady workings of the NFL, Chris “Hit-Man” Harris is against rule changes for safety,I believe.
    As far as kick offs go, i see it as the NFL owners and organization wanting to make more money via tickets and selling more QB-WR jerseys, the less effective Specials teams are, the more effective Offense and Defense HAVE to be in order to win. Kick-offs change games, and its the SINGLE phase of the game where the entire TEAM’s performance is required for a positive outcome in field position, turnovers, and points. Not to mention, how many careers got REALLY STARTED via special teams, kick returns, kick coverage, its the universal testing grounds for everyteam for ball carriers, recievers, backs, safeties, corners, LINEMEN, the works. lets recap a few, TD, WW, JE, DH, JC, (who was the lineman for Pats that returned a kick some 50 yards or so? im pretty sure he got the game ball, how many more of those do you think he’ll get as a lineman???) DMc?, DS a.k.a PT, ST, <Steve Tasker the king of Special Teams, BA(Bears-Ravens LB and STer) and honestly(this is where i get biased) how much of the Bears offense came from special teams last season? Dan near half right? They LIVE off field position and defense. OR atleast they did…anybody else get the feeling the 18 game season's ball has been rolling for years now? MAN, im GettinRazzedUP.

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