Kickoff rule not going away during 2011 season


I’ve yet to find anyone who can make a persuasive case for the decision to move the kickoff point from the 30 to the 35.  But regardless of the touchbacks — and the five-minute bathroom breaks that come from a thin slice of leg-swing meat nestled between two slices of messages-from-our-sponsors bread — the rule won’t be changing in 2011.

Falcons president Rich McKay, chairman of the league’s Competition Committee, told Peter King of and NBC on Sunday that the rule, which passed by a vote of 30-2, won’t be changed during the 2011 season, regardless of how loudly anyone may complain.

“After the season,” McKay told King for his indispensable Monday Morning Quarterback column, “we’ll see how it’s affected the game and the injury numbers.”

Hopefully, the league will consider not only total injuries but also injuries-per-return.  Those have a chance to spike, if coaches keep fewer special-teams specialists and if the players who are playing special teams have fewer chances via live game reps to get sufficiently comfortable with the assignment.  In many cases, the special teams are staffed with younger players who remain inexperienced and wide-eyed.

We continue to be troubled by a rule that attempts to reduce injuries simply by reducing the number of times a play is used.  If the play is dangerous, it needs to removed from the game not part of the time but all of the time.

Tony Dungy of Football Night in America told PFT Live last week that he thinks the shifting of the kickoff point could be the first step toward doing just that.

61 responses to “Kickoff rule not going away during 2011 season

  1. remove kickoffs? what about giving a team a chance for an onside kick, i know its not done with a high rate of success but you cant take that away

  2. All of this years new rules need to be scrapped immediately following this season. They also need to re-visit this “defenseless receiver” garbage. After clean hits all weekend that were penalized you can expect the guys to get fined for playing the game clean, and with intensity like it is meant to be.

  3. They just need to wrap these guys in bubble wrap from head to toe like the Michelin man and be done with it……..

  4. “the rule won’t be changing in 2010”, well that’s good to know. On a more serious note, did they not simply change the rule back to the way it used to be?

  5. I doubt injuries related to kickoffs will really deviate from the yearly avg. Regardless of where the ball lands, the frontline guys will still collide. Furthermore, once teams start pouching the ball and trying to get their kick coverage down the field it will be the same as a kick from the 30, in terms of collisions.

  6. The rule we should be talking about eliminating is the one that requires a review of every touchdown but not plays ruled ‘not a touchdown’. If you’re going to review every touchdown, then equally, any play made within the endzone should get a fair shake. Having said that, what really should happen is they should eliminate both, add more officials and make the calls on the field.

  7. I try to keep the paranoid part of me in check, but as soon as I heard about the moving of the kickoff point, I suspected it was ultimately a stalking horse for eliminating it altogether & just giving the ball to each team at the 20 after a score. Turns out I might not have been crazy after all. Dungy is a guy who knows what’s going on in the upper echelons of the league.

    It’s crazy. 90% of the time I roll my eyes at the “OMG THEY’RE MAKING FOOTBALL SOFT WAH WAH WAH” comments because they’re usually just homers blindly defending their team after a dirty hit….but seriously, can flags be more than a decade away at this rate?

    There’s a line between maximizing player safety (a good thing) and neutering the game (a bad thing) and the NFL is dangerously close to crossing it

  8. News Flash- football is a dangerous game with collisons and people will get hurt at times. I hate the direction the league is headed, they might as well become the NFFL (National Flag Football League).

  9. Sadly, this sport is losing it’s entertainment value quickly.

    Yet – commercials seem to be more and more prominent each year.

    Double negative.

  10. This is a dog and pony show from the NFL to potential courts, judges and possible jury members.

    The league wants to illustrate the steps they are taking to reduce injuries in case there is a mega law suit in the future.

    The NFL is looking to limit it’s liability and possible huge money settlement they would have to pay.

    Otherwise the league could care less about player safety.

  11. Make teams start on the 20 for what used to be kickoff plays. Punts? No rushing allowed, place the ball wherever it hits – 5 yards unless it goes out of bounds or into the end zone. Pass play? Where the ball is caught plus 5 yards. Running plays limited to 10/game pending further review. One at a time in all bathrooms. T-shirt messages? Censored, no tolerance policy. Beer? Nope. $15 surcharge added to all tickets and fans get free water, coffee or tea. Tweeting by players and personnel: subject to fines. Pop, Rock & CW bands, “fashion shows” and free food at halftime + triple the number of “cheerleaders” so people show up despite having to be searched prior to entering. No games are allowed to proceed without the presence of six lawyers, three per team.

  12. something tells me that a swell could rise against rich mckay that even he can not contain. if owners start to hate this rotten fish of a rule as much as fans, players, coaches, and media types, they could lose their stomach for all this experimentation and statistic gathering. i mean does anyone doubt the kickoff line will change back eventually. so why not now?

  13. edukator4 says: “remove kickoffs? what about giving a team a chance for an onside kick?” Onside kicks aren’t fair. Everybody should get the same number of turns. No more score counting. Each team gets a trophy at the end of the game.

  14. It does allow for a little more commercial time.
    I hate what they are doing to the best sport in America.

  15. If the play is dangerous, it needs to removed from the game not part of the time but all of the time.
    That’s a slippery slope as every play could be considered dangerous. Are you suggesting every play be removed from the game? That’s just silly.

  16. Each play that results in a player being unable to continue for more than one series of downs afterwards must be reviewed by lawyers from each team. Final disposition is in the hands of the commissioner.

  17. the stupid little children of football men er football millionaires richie rich mckay, bookmaking mara family mara, rooney bookmakers boy, paul brown’s idiot son – that is who now run this sport.

  18. You know it’s bad when after the 2nd or 3rd touchback even the home team fans are booing when their team is kicking off. That’s how it was at the game I was at, at least.

  19. In exchange for no kickoffs we want an OWNERS BOWL. To be played outdoors… In Alaska. Just think of Mike Brown in full pads grinding his dentures…

  20. I used to see kickoffs land between the 2-10 yard lines all the time. Now many kickoffs are sailing through the uprights. The math isn’t adding up.

    I’m dusting off the ol’ helium-in-the-ball conspiracy theory.

  21. It seems like a lot of the coaches don’t like the rule either. Maybe enough of them can band together and make a gentleman’s agreement to false start on every kick so they get moved back to the 30yd line by penalty. It would save us fans from this stupid rule and probably add enough time delay headaches that the competition committee would have to change it midseason…..

  22. I am sure that the teams that have no game breaker return man or piss poor coverage teams were all in favor of this stupid rule.

    My team does not have a Hester, Cribbs or Harvin fielding kick offs?
    Then you can’t have one either!

  23. Color me skeptical, but all this “mama has to protect her babies” mentality began when the league started catering to women. Female reporters asking coaches “how does it FEEL to lose such a close game?” Then there are the cameras watching the fans, the coaches the rants, and anything else that is emotional and not real football.

  24. edukator4 says:
    Aug 22, 2011 9:56 AM
    remove kickoffs? what about giving a team a chance for an onside kick, i know its not done with a high rate of success but you cant take that away
    this is exactly why they cant get rid of them. i feel like if they do, then im done with the NFL.

  25. We continue to be troubled by a rule that attempts to reduce injuries simply by reducing the number of times a play is used.  If the play is dangerous, it needs to removed from the game not part of the time but all of the time.

    I get the frustration over this issue but I see the current rule as a compromise to reduce the opportunities for dangerous plays without, like, changing the game so radically that you couldn’t even have onsides kicks anymore. That would totally suck.

    I don’t like the new rule either, but I’d rather see kickoff returns some of the time than not at all.

  26. Mark my words, by the 3rd week of the season you will see teams kicking high and deep in an effort to make the return man make a decision whether to fair catch or not, imagine those collisions 🙂

  27. “and the five-minute bathroom breaks that come from a thin slice of leg-swing meat nestled between two slices of messages-from-our-sponsors bread ”

    Please stop.

  28. I thought the outrageous contracts was a way of compensating these athletes for the dangerous risks they took out on the field.

    If they sign their name on the dotted line they are signing up for the risks involved. Let them play and hopefully no one gets hurt but if they do they’ve been compensated and if they are seriously hurt well that is too bad but it happens every day in lots of different types of job in this world so I dont see why this should be any different.

  29. Contract amounts will start coming down I’m assuming because the game is getting safer, right?

    If there is less risk then there should be less pay.

  30. This rule takes a lot of the excitement out of football and can have a major effect on some teams… Living in the tri-state area i get to watch both the jets and the Giants so I’ll just use this as my example… Last year the Jets had one of the best special teams in all of football, when they kicked off the team would always end up around the 20 (no change there) and when they were returning they seemed to always bring it past at least the 30 giving Sanchez only about 35 more yards until field goal range, now there goona have to settle for a lot of touchbacks… The giants on the other hand were terrible on both kick-off coverage (opponents averaged 33 yardline on returns) and returns (averaged getting to only the 21), now most defensive possessions will start out on the 20… This rule will have a big effect on teams who had a great special teams last year and will be a gift from god with teams who ranked in the lower half.

  31. Football is both an entertaining and dangerous sport. In fact, the physicality of the game is what makes it both of those. By removing plays that are dangerous and entertaining, you lessen the game. Some may argue that tackling in itself is dangerous and should be removed but I can’t imagine they’d be arguing over $11 Billion of fan revenue if we we’re watching flag football. There are ways to reasonably protect the players. Making the game less physical is not likely to be a win win.. If you want to be completely safe, don’t get on a football field.. If you want to make millions of dollars entertaining the world with a sport we all love, enjoy it for all it’s worth and accept the risk that comes with that…

  32. Stop watching games, stop buying tickets…. They will change the rule back then. At that point we will see just how committed the league really is to being safe……

  33. PLAIN AND SIMPLE: Teams will master higher kickoffs getting the ball to drop around the 10 yd line. This will force either a fair catch or poor field position. The coverage teams will meet the ball coming down to the returner. The Injuries won’t go away because the blockers will have less time to find their assignments. This is a terrible rule. Remember, that’s a live ball for the taking on kickoffs folks. Returners have to field the ball. So get ready for a lot of fair catches. Forget touchbacks.

    As soon as these kickers master the high hang time kickoff that lands around the 10 yard line, this rule will go away.

  34. This rule is great news for the better defensive teams. No returns forces shorter drives and more punts. Kickoff returns are a critical part of the game that dictate field position and momentum.

  35. There are two issues:

    1) High speed impacts. These result in lots of injuries and concussions. They need to shorten the head starts of defensive players, which has been addressed with the kickoff move.

    2) Boring touchbacks. We don’t want to “fix” the problem by just taking half of the returns away. Returns are fun. Touchbacks are boring.

    I think that the kickoff position and also the ball used should be tweaked to reduce the high speed head starts a team gets and reduce high speed collisions. Moving it closer was a good step in that direction. However I think that touchbacks shoudl be reduced if at all possible.

    I think touchbacks by the return man should bring the ball only to the 10 yard line. However balls that are sent out of the back of the endzone by the kicker without touching a player should be brought out to the 25 yard line.


    See article above from the NY Times. The kickoff was from the 35 yl until 1994 when it was moved back five yards to essentially make the play more exciting.

    Interestingly enough the number of kicks returned went from 68.4% in 1993 to 88.4% in 1994.

    All in all that is a 20% increase. All things remaining equal this change back to the pre-1994 rules should account for a 20% decrease in kick returns.

    On the other hand it seems like a much more than 20% decrease in returns so far this pre-season. Perhaps due to the other kick return rule changes the past two years?

    The kick return is one of the most exciting plays in football. The game will suffer if there is a drastic decrease in returns.

    Combine a high-percentage of touch-backs with the higher amount of scoring plays that will be reviewed via instant replay and all of a sudden you have a giant sized bathroom/beer run break from the time a touchdown is scored until the opposing team’s offense takes the field after the touch-back.

    Not very exciting if you ask me….

  37. As a Pats fan, I love this rule. Make em go 80 every time.
    As a football fan , I hate this. Remove a potential exciting play and add more commercial time.
    As a realist, I understand this. Jim McMahon is suing the NFL. The same organization that made him rich and famous. He is going to win. Opening the door for every broke former player to do likewise. The NFL must prove that they are being proactive towards safety now to prevent today’s “stars” from being able to sue in the future. Capitalism at it’s finest.

  38. As a season ticket holder this rule ticks me off (I’d use harsher words, but they’ll pull my comment).

    We always finished the tailgate to make sure we were there for kickoff…due to it’s excitement and potential.

    95% of all kickoffs will be out of the endzone.

    I’ve had season tickets for years and this rule is going to impact the game way too much.

    Baseball hasn’t changed their rules this much

    I’m ticked now that every score is reviewed…even if it’s obvious.

    Stop messing with what was a great product.

  39. The opening weekend of every NFL season is called “Kickoff Weekend –“. Next year if they eliminate kickoffs what will they call it? “Place The Ball at The 20 Like a Bunch of Wussies Weekend”?
    I don’t see college football getting rid of kickoffs!
    Maybe that’s real football!








  41. This is much ado about, at most, very little.

    First of all, you can’t remove the kick-off; that suggestion is beyond ridiculous, and to be consistent you’d have to eliminate punt returns. Not going to happen.

    Second, you can expect to see more touchbacks in preseason for two reasons.

    First, many teams are carrying multiple kickers, and most of the kickers who won’t make the team have strong legs, but lack accuracy. In years past, a few teams kept kick-off specialists, but most coaches don’t want to keep three kickers on the roster.

    Second, it’s early, and even veteran kickers like Ryan Longwell (who couldn’t find the endzone on kickoffs last year to save his life) are putting the ball in the endzone now. Wait until mid-to-late October, and those kickoffs will be about five yards shorter.

    The biggest ‘casualty’ of this rule will be the kicker who does nothing but kick off. I’m not sure any of those guys will find a roster spot on any team after moving the kickoffs up five yards.

  42. Everyone is overlooking the obvious advantage to this rule change. Now, when there is a tie and the game goes into overtime, the flip of a coin will no longer decide the outcome of the game. Look on the bright side. It solves the OT Field Goal winning the game problem.

  43. I said the same thing, with the garbage Rule why even have a Kickoff. Just start the other Team from the 20 yard line. Why “RISK” the players Health by having them do all that running for nothing.

    Notice that one of the two NO Votes was by a REAL FOOTBALL MAN, Al Davis. It is a shame you have all these Pot Bellied Old Men that have never played the game destroying the game.

    I was wondering, how many players are a part of the Competition Board?, time to clear some of those Old Geezers out of there and put in some Real Football Players. They should stop the Sack and just have to touch a RB to have him down as well, the NFL is turning into a Joke and another League needs to step in and start playing Real Football again.

  44. This easily surpasses the Tuck Rule and the 5-yard Chuck Rule as the WORST RULE EVER! Give us our kickoffs back! Even the players want it!

  45. I will tell you what is going to ruin football and you heard it here 1st. Lawyers/ Lawsuits. As old players start bringing lawsuits against the NFL for injuries they incurred while playing the cost of litigation will increase which in turn will lead to rule changes which will lead to the change in the way the game is played. The NFL will be stuck in the middle listening to head hunters like James Harrison going after people and then beginning sued by other players that took the hit. Of course the next step would be to have players sue players. But as the NFL gets watered down to prevent law suits, opps I mean injuries, the game will lose its broad appeal it has, as the game is played now. Oh insert Pittsburgh fan comment that “Harrison ain’t cheap here”

  46. I have never seen a rule change, in any sport, so universally disliked.

    It will be interesting to see the true impact on offenses and scoring, once the regular season starts.

    One thing I can’t understand is why, at least in the pre-season so far, the same kickers who struggled to reach the goal line from the 30, boot it out the back of the end zone from the 35.

  47. Remove kickoffs? Should we change the name of this game to “handball”? As one of the commentators said last week, this is just about the only part of the game that still involves the foot.

    How about changing the way kicks are covered? Or continuing to work on those helmets? The Kevin Everett-type injuries … were those an issue back in the day? If not, why not? Is it just that the speed of the game and weight of the players have increased or were kick returns played differently?

    Surely these genuises can do a little more study before they decide to make such a significant change to the game.

  48. Personally I don’t like the rule change but if I have a great defense playing a team that struggles to move the ball or if the wind is a major factor then I am definitely kicking off. You could play the entire game in the opponents half. You score after a punt and they start on the 20 almost every time.

  49. As usual, many silly comments and a few to make one think. Many seem to be in denial about the obvious dangers involved and I wonder if their ancestors were in Rome for the Lions and the tough guys.

    One idea that might be worth a try is to kick off without a tee or holder. The speed of the attackers would be modified to be sure where the kick is headed; on-side kicks, no problem. If you accept that speed will be reduced somehow, I bet you could suggest something good, too. And, your desire for blood and skull fractures might be reduced, as well. By the way,I have been watching the NFL since oh 1950.

  50. The NFL and Rich McKay screwed up on this. That play is a fundamental part of the game and the NFL is making policy right now out of paranoia over injuries, concussions in particular.

    Injuries have been and will always be a part of the game of football. It is a very violent game, violent collisions are intrinsic to the very nature of tackling if we try to remove that….we remove much of the essence of the game itself. Furthermore, the players can’t play the game, knowing full well of all the injury risks they put themselves into including spinal/neck injury/paralyzation, and then turn around sue the league if something bad happens to them. They know the risks, accept them, and continue to play the game. The lawyers and the leagues image protectors are afraid right now because the issue of concussions is at the forefront and it’s got all them a bit scared. These rules changes are essentially pre-lawsuit mitigation measures so that the league can show in a courtroom at some point in the future that they were taking action with the players safety in mind and to reduce injuries.

    I just hope they don’t ruin the game in the process.

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