Sean Payton wouldn’t be surprised if kickoffs are eliminated

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Saints coach Sean Payton joined PFT Live on Tuesday for a candid discussion that touched on several topics.  Given all the attention that has been paid to the shifting of the kickoff point from the 30 to the 35, I had to ask Coach Payton for his take.

“I think the challenge the league had this offseason was, they had all this information and when you get this information,  3-to-1 or more likely to be injured on the kickoff, whether you’re a returner or cover guy,” Payton said.  “In other words, statistically there would be no one that would argue that. Then you have to be able to take steps, so that 10 years down the road when someone is asking you, hey at this time when you knew it was such a dangerous play  and you continued on with the kicks from the 30 and now you have someone who is seriously injured.”

Payton realizes, as do many other coaches, that there will still be plenty of kickoff returns.

“[W]e are going to have inclement weather,  we are going to have kicks that don’t go as far as they are suppose to and we are going to have return teams  that take it out from five [yards] deep,” Payton said.  “Overall numbers I think will be down and  certainly effects the teams who have those elite returners. But I do think that it was very simple  in its beginning, and that was the information was too strong. I think the league felt they had to do something to so show that they recognized it’s a tough play without getting rid of it.”

So what about the possibility of getting rid of it?

“Well, that’s a great question, because the next question you would ask as attorney, well, if it’s 3-to-1 the most difficult play in sports,  you are still potentially kicking off and returning it right?” Payton said.  “So I think the traditionalist in all of us want to see that as the beginning of the play.  I mean for anything else, it represents what is the start of a game.  So how can we slow down the momentum?  How can we make it safer? And so that has been the challenge.

“Sitting in on John Madden’s coaches committee, and discussing this topic, this is a tough one, in regards to trying to reduce collision speed.  There are a number of things you can do offensively and defensively, but when it comes to kicking that ball and these guys are running down the field a pretty good rate of speed, even if they have a five-yard start as opposed to last year the 10-yard start.  I wouldn’t be surprised, Mike, if down the road that’s where it was headed.  Unless we come up with some good answers.  And that’s the trick.”

The league needs to come up with some good answers, because football isn’t football without a kickoff.  Indeed, the Saints probably wouldn’t have won Super Bowl XLIV without the opportunity to pull off a surprise onside kick at the start of the second half of the eventual victory over the Colts.

68 responses to “Sean Payton wouldn’t be surprised if kickoffs are eliminated

  1. Eliminating the kick off is a sure fire way to alienate the fans.

    If you’re worried about functioning properly down the road, either play a non contact sport, or find an office job with a minimum paycheck of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

    Otherwise, take the risk, collect the check, and don’t whine about it down the road.

    I still don’t understand why the NFL feels they need to ruin the game to make it “safe” when people in boxing and MMA still beat the tar out of each other while Ali stumbles around all day wondering where he is.

  2. Eliminate the kickoff…replace it with a punt… make them punt from the 50 to start the game…kicking off takes no skill anyways…punters at least have to try an pin them in deep…

  3. pigskinswag says: Aug 30, 2011 4:05 PM

    Tackling will also soon be eliminated.
    You mean they can still tackle? OK, but only RBs and WRs. So Sean thinks they will do away with the onside kick? So much for quick come backs.

  4. I think the collision speed will actually increase.

    Because the returner has addtional 10 yards or so to pick up speed and run upfield.

    Stupid, stupid rule change.

  5. This is dumb. Kickoff returns can be exciting. The Music City Miracle, onside kicks that win games or send them into overtime. Or fumbles on kickoffs that turn into points during the game. If they get rid of the kickoff, my interest will wane if all they do is start it at the 20.

  6. Next year’s rule changes:

    Use a nerf football.
    Grass will be replaced with cotton.
    Field Goal kicks eliminated. Just tell the ref you would have like to kick a field goal. He will then flip a coin.

    Heads – Kick is good!
    Tails – ooooh, wide right.

  7. they are absolutely going to kill the game i love…cut the crap…its a dangerous profession. there are MANY dangerous professions people engage in in order to provide for there families. almost NONE pay people $700,000 a year and up to what, $20 million a year!? Is there NO such thing as Tradition anymore?

  8. Maybe instead of playing the games on the field, the players could all play themselves on Madden, and EA and the NFL could televise that.

    That still would not eliminate all the risk, since this could lead to an increase in carpal tunnel injury as well as obesity.

  9. No more soccer players on the football team?
    Eliminating the punt make more sense.
    Eliminate the useless PAT.
    When will we switch to ‘2 below’?

  10. Your last paragraph is reason enough for the kickoff to remain. There is nothing, except maybe a turnover, that changes the momentum of a game like a kick return for a touchdown.

    It’s the opening kickoff, and your returner dances his way down the sideline and into the open to go up 7-0 before the ball has even been snapped once. You just countered all that energy they built up pre-game.

    Your opponent just went down the field and kicked a field goal to go up by 3 with 3 minutes left. You come out and return the kickoff for a TD. Complete deflation.

    Your opponent is up by two scores. After scoring the separation TD, their kickoff is returned 99 yards for the score. You effectively just erased their momentum with one play.

    No matter the situation, kickoffs returns for scores are one of the most electrifying plays in all of football. Leave it alone and handle it legally. Waivers, information packets, and preventative training are the way to go here. Just because people like to sue doesn’t mean the only recourse is doing away with the risk.

  11. How do the kickoff injuries compare to punt injuries? Maybe the solution is to have everyone line up closer to the line of scrimmage? Maintain the 10 yard gap for onsides kicks, but don’t allow anyone to be running toward the line of scrimmage (except the kicker) like any offensive play. Then just work out the kickoff position based on the revised formation and how quickly they can get down field.

  12. I can’t for the life of me understand why the NFL continues to make changes to what is considered the most popular game in America today. Eventually the game will be a shell of what it once was and Roger Goodell will be the one who shoulders the blame.

  13. How about updating the old ass equipment the NFL still uses? There are better helmets and things they COULD be using but no…….contracts with equipment vendors are more important than player safety so instead of changing to gear that we were not playing in in the 1970’s let’s bastardise the game by changing or removing kick off returns…So much for the NFL caring about player safety.

  14. The kick-off is going to become like the jump ball in basketball. A ceremonious way to start a game. It will be gone completely by 2020 except to start games. Extra points will also go away, and punts will probably become extinct too. Sucks, but it’s true.

  15. Or you could say here are the facts on injuries, let the players know it is dangerous, and they can decide if a football paycheck is worth playing special teams. Nobody is forced to play and it is part of the game!

  16. In that Super Bowl you speak of, how were the Colts going to come back from two scores down if there was no chance of an onside kick?

  17. I wonder if more kicks will be returned for big gains or touchdowns, simply because the coverage teams become less experienced in how to stop an actual return.

    You would have to think that the mechanism of defending a return will become a little rusty if it’s rarely carried out in real game action.

  18. Keep kickoffs, challenge your equipment makers to do better. Time to make improved safety equipment a focus for new technology, then require the use of said new equipment. Any player not using the proper equipment is disqualified.

  19. Solution: Kick off from the 4o yard line with the punter, not kicker. Kicking team players must stay on line of scrimmage — no getting up a head of steam. Fewer touchbacks. Fewer injuries.

    Thumbs up for this genious idea.

  20. Eliminating the kickoffs puts a LOT of people out of jobs and would dilute the talent pool greatly. You’d still have to have depth, but you can’t justify keeping a 6th or 7th receiver that doesn’t contribute in ANY other facet of the game. Some of these guys make their living being special teams guys that can only really just be warm bodies after the 3rd string guy goes down.

  21. Players are 3 times more likely to get injured if they are involved in a tackle than if they aren’t.

    In ten years the lawsuits will ask: you knew tackling was dangerous, but you continued to let players do it?

    Clearly we are going to have to remove tackling from the game.

  22. You can’t get rid of it. When Cincinnati is receiving a kickoff and the return fumbles the ball and it ends up at the 1 Yd line or even a touchdown, how do you replace that?

    Your changing the dynamic of the game. Cincinnati could win some games by accident if you did that.

  23. This is the kind of crap that I can’t stand about the NFL. They are on top but they are screwing up the game. Ever since the “in the grasp” rule came into effect.

    I say this, keep the freakin kick-off from the 30 (like it was) If it is dangerous, I don’t care. Why do I not care? Because this is their chosen profession and they know the risks. No one had a gun to their head like the Gladiators had when they had to go fight lions. Now that is a gun to your head!

    If a race car driver gets killed what are they going to do? have them race on virtual game machines? No! They are not!

    If A guy gets beaned in the head with a baseball while batting and gets killed, are they going to stop pitching? No! They are not!

    If a hockey player gets killed during a breakout fight on the ice, are they going to stop fighting? No! They are not!

    If a pro surfer gets munched by a Shark, Are they going to surf in a wave making machine? No!They are not!

    If a UFC guy gets killed or a pro Boxer get killed, are they going to just use “rockem’ sockem Robots” to decide winners. No! They are not!

    If a pro mountain climber falls to his death, do they outlaw mountain climbing. Hell, there have been two mishaps at Half Dome in Yosemite just this year…

    What about these freaks in the “X” games? Does anyone care about the risks? Hell no!

    I can go on forever, I think you all get the point..

    The bottom line is simply, IT”S YOUR CHOSEN FREAKIN PROFESSION!!!
    The candidates know the freakin risks. So be it!!!!

    LEAVE OUR GAME ALONE!!!. There are no freakin guarantees in life. You get hurt or killed, oh freakin well.

    When I drive to work, does anyone care that I am risking my life every day I am on the freeway? NO! Take a look at those stats sometime.

    But then again no one has a gun to my head telling me I must commute from orange county into LA everyday on the freakin interstate 5 – That my chosen profession and it can’t be changed unless I quit and get another job closer…

    The kick off is the most thrilling play to me. Most fans are pissed off about this new rule and I concur with them 100 %!

    Again please….. LEAVE OUR FREAKIN GAME ALONE!!!


  24. The NFL is a measuring stick for survival of the fittest, not survival of the most ideal.

    Men are made to be broken, and these players are provided for and paid rather well to endure that chance a few times a year. The NFL shouldnt legislate the chances players take, or mitigate the risk/potential of these plays because it will only end up stealing from the game we’ve grown to love. If the intention is to reduce full-throttle impact how about keeping a few players on the defending half of the field?

    Lastly, just imagine what would happen if your old lady took away your favorite meat-packed dinner because its 3:1 worse for you than the vegetarian dishes she likes…. I dont care how healthy it is- that just aint right!

  25. I’m waiting to see just when Goodell will have all skill players fitted for their bloomers & skirts.
    Eliminate kickoffs? Why not eliminate tackling completely? I may be old school in my beliefs but the NFL is heading downhill fast with this nincompoop at the helm!

  26. “And in related news, the NBA has eliminated fast breaks and the NHL has removed penalty shots.

    …No wait, not even Bettman is that stupid.”

  27. If you eliminate the kick-off, you will be left with another type of play that will become the most dangerous play.

    The kick-off return for a TD is the most exciting play in the game and the guys who are the best at these returns are the most exciting players in the game. The onside kick is thrilling as it can be used as a classic coaches gamble or method to extend an otherwise decided contest. The blue-collar guy who earn their reputation running down the field the making tackles often becomes local fan favorites.

    If you hack away at the game, you will hack away at the fan base. I hope the NFL does not do something very stupid.

  28. BTW, eliminating kickoffs just so they can eliminate the safety argument from the 18-game season, then all they’ve done is pave the way for two less-exciting games a year.

    They really need to study up on how the MLB diluted its product and, you know, try NOT to do the same.

  29. Here’s the truth behind all of this:

    They keep talking about “safety” for the players. That is the biggest load of b.s. I’ve heard. It’s an excuse to change the rules so they don’t have to pay for as many hospital bills. They don’t care about safety. They fine players $20,000 for pushing too hard, oh excuse me, forearms to the back.

    Capitalism. Plain and simple. Exactly like when Bush said we were going to fight the middle east to “protect us” that, and take control of all the oil. But I digress.

    Wake Up!

  30. Football is like smoking. There was a time when few if any people understood how dangerous it is to smoke, and there was a time when nobody realized this game could kill people (Mike Webster, Dave Duerson, Andre Waters, et al). Well, now we know smoking can kill you no matter what kind of filter you’re sucking on, and football can, at the very least, make the rest of your life miserable if not kill you, regardless of advancements in helmets and other gear, and regardless of whether they kick the ball off occasionally. You pays your way, you takes your chances. I agree with people on this post who think kickoffs should not be done away with. I’m a Saints fan, and I remember that onside kick. Do we win SB44 without it? I’m not sure we do.

  31. What about the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl? I bet goodell never even played football.

  32. It is dangerous. No doubt.

    If only there was a way that the players could sign some sort of contract saying that they are willing to put themselves at risk for, say, millions of dollars.

    Oh well. Guess not.

  33. I dont see how fans would approve of this. I wouldn’t at all.

    In fact, special teams are one of the few ways to make a team in the nfl for rookies.

    Seems like all these rule changes are against rookies and favor veteran incumabants. From less practices and contact practices(only 16 a season) rookie wage scale(needed tho) and if they took away kickoffs.

    Its almost like taking a chunk of a movie away. Every game starts and has started with a kickoff. Which commonly sets the tempo of the game sometimes

  34. ” Indeed, the Saints probably wouldn’t have won Super Bowl XLIV without the opportunity to pull off a surprise onside kick at the start of the second half of the eventual victory over the Colts.”

    The Saints gave the Colts the beatdown of their lives for 3 out of 4 quarters.

    From quarters 2-4 the game was a lopsided 31-7. Saying they “probably wouldn’t have won” is ignorant at best. No doubt it was a big play, but lets not place the entire outcome of the whole contest squarely on one play. It was a team effort and a team win.

  35. “make them punt from the 50 to start the game”

    i dont think staring up into the sky trying to field a ball while 11 people soround you waiting to crush you is safer then a normal kickoff. Just slow down the kickoff team.

    Heck. Reduce the number of people on a kickoff. That would surly give a place in the game for return men and players that are great at open field tackles.

  36. Flag football anyone. The kickoff can be very exciting. Long runbacks are part of the game. It shortens the field to enable team comebacks in the final minutes. They have taken away the inside the park homer.

  37. No matter what, you can’t eliminate the opportunity to get the ball back if you are behind late in the game with an onsides kick. For now, I’m willing to see how the new rule plays out over more games.

  38. 3 to 1 ???????

    bs stat nfl brains took out of context even including punts on a figure used only to change kickoff rules. then invert the new “severe” vlassification of not playing 3 weeks.

    ive seen several players put on ir in games i watched this month ALL ON OTHER PLAYS plus more players get severely hurt in practice and thay stat is not included.

    this rule helps teams with a strong legged kicker.

    all\ other kickoffs will be returned and injuries still will happen on ANY play.

    sometimes guys get put on ir just taking a bad srep and withoit being touched.

    ridiculous rule.






  40. There is a problem to which there should be a solution. Few of the comments include an attempt at solution, but the standing start should be looked at. Also, a tee-less kickoff might be worth a look. I’m a Steeler fan and a Harrison fan, but don’t like some of the hits in their games and others as well. But, then, I also don’t agree or like most of the comments I read; they reflect an attitude that isn’t similar to the NFL fans I have known over the years. I really almost want to regurgitate when I read “my game” or “my NFL”. Ugh

  41. If it hadn’t been for the single touchdown pass Peyton Manning threw in that Superbowl, which came in the 1st quarter, Peyton ‘probably’ wouldn’t have been able to hold his starting job over Curtis Painter in 2010.

  42. And this should expose the league’s true intentions. These rule changes are not and have never been about “player safety” as the league has claimed from day one. It is about potential lawsuits. They don’t really care if a career special teamer is injured. They care that a career special teamer that got injured could sue them for negligence.

    As the economy gets worse, the litigious stuff will increase. It is a form of employment to many people. It is how they intend to make money. Spill hot coffee in my lap…it’s McD’s fault, get shot while breaking into somebody’s house…how dare they endanger me, minor traffic accident…oh, my back, my neck. You know it will happen and it is happening…and so does the NFL. It’s a damn shame they are changing the game for the worse (not necessarily by moving the kick spot) because there are a bunch of low-lifes that will sue over anything. Can you look at the character of many of these players and honestly believe they will will not sue about some stupid crap? McMahon, et al. is only the beginning.

  43. How many times are they going to try and kill the Goose thats laying the Golden egg? This is a great game, and probably the last true money maker left for the advertisers and league. STOP TALKING ABOUT IT, IDIOT. Just play the game and dont worry about it….let them eliminate it, then talk about it. These guys could f$%k up a cup a coffee.

    You nearly had a work stoppage….and now this balloon head and Belichick are talking about “i wouldnt be surprised if they eliminated the kickoff altogether”?



  44. Women refs.

    Kickoffs Gone.

    Lime Green Uniforms.

    High ticket prices.

    Pink bracelets.

    Thank You NFL Masters!!!

  45. Finfan68: You are right in that the NFL cares less about the injury than they do getting sued over it (it’s a corporation; self-preservation is the first law of nature AND corporate America). Players know what they’re getting into now, and the NFL knows what a dangerous product they have. That’s why Goodell went nuts with fines last year and why they’re struggling with the kickoff thing. I would not want to be Goodell now. Does he let ’em play, make the money, and potentially severely injure somebody, or does he fine hell out of people and nix kickoffs and kill the goose that’s laying the golden egg? Tough call.

  46. @wayupsouth: It is a tough call, but it is not one he should have to make. If lawyers had their way, nothing would be allowed. There are warning labels on everything because there are stupid people and there are shady people who will sue over the slightest inconvenience or perceived harm. It’s a shame. The league must take steps that protect the players but they should maintain the integrity of the game itself. If a coworker flips out and assaults you, who gets sued? The company, the individual, or both? It is probably both but it shouldn’t be. When the league has rules put in place to prevent unnecessary injury they should be absolved of responsibility for freak accidents (individual player assumes that risk and is well compensated for it) and willful disregard resulting in injury (offender should be solely responsible). It isn’t that way, but I think it should be. If a kickoff is responsible for a particular injury, then why isn’t a forward pass play responsible for the injury when the receiver is hung out to dry and defenseless?

  47. So if you eliminate the most dangerous play of the game, then whatever was the 2nd most dangerous play is now the most dangerous and you have to eliminate that too. Eventually they’ll just have to have the coin flip determine the winner. And even then they’ll have to stop using the most dangerous coins.

    Eventually it will just be guys in full pads and helmets lightly dropping a bubble wrapped penny under the watchful eye of a team of lawyers and actuaries.

  48. just do the kickoff to start the game and the 2nd half. that’s the solution.

    after scores, give them the ball at the 25.

  49. I’ll expand on some earlier suggestions:

    Start the halfs with a kickoff, then give the scoring team the option of kicking off, or giving the opposing team the ball at, say, the 25 or 30. That way you can choose to pin them down, take your chances, or have an onside kick. I don’t like it, but it will reduce the number of kickoffs, thereby reducing injuries, and still keep in some strategy and the live-ball possibility of retaining possession after a score.

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