NFL will consider other kickoff changes in offseason

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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.

29 responses to “NFL will consider other kickoff changes in offseason

  1. If I had to pick one of these ideas, then I think I would pick the last one. I think the biggest problem today is how fast guys are going when they collide with one another. Slowing them down hopefully would reduce the amount of serious injuries that result from those collisions. I’d like to see them try that and see how that goes before they make a radical change like eliminating the kickoff altogether.

    The one question though, is how would having the kickoff team starting at the 40 effect onside kicks. That would be something that they would have to address too if they made this change.

  2. If kickoffs are that dangerous, just eliminate them.

    Instead, the kicking team would have 2 choices that they would have designate before the kickoff:

    (1) Simply give the ball to the receiving team at the 25 yard line. Before the recent rule change the average net return was to the 27 yard line, the last 2 years after the rule change it is the 23 yard line.

    (2) Mandatory on side kick. Since onside kicks occur within a 20 yard area. The players don’t build up any real speed and injury risk is minimal.

  3. The 4th and 15/punt idea is ridiculously lame. Not only does that give an advantage to the kicking team with the option to simply go for it, but it doesn’t make sense. The end of halves would be totally different. A team could simply go for a FG with time still on the clock knowing they could then try a hail mary for the last play of the half. Dumb.

    If they are all about moving to a punt, then have the kicking team punt from the 50 with no 4th and 15 option. If they want to go for an onside kick, then those should still be allowed.

  4. I’m with kenorv. It is the speed which is the major factor. It would be simple to try with the kickoff team starting with no run-up from the same yard line as KO.

  5. Couldn’t they just use 2-3 less players on each team for Kickoffs? With less players it would spread out the field (kind of like it does in soccer) so it would be much tougher to have as many ‘head on collisions”.

  6. How about using the same kickoff teams use when they have a safety. It is a punt/kickoff, which allows the kicker to get more hang time on the ball.

    The chances of a return are lower with the longer hang time. They could also not allow a running start by the kicking team.

  7. They should do a weekly skills competition where there is no interpersonal contact whatsoever. The results of that are then fed into a Madden-like simulator that shows them how they fare against the other team.

  8. Ever watch “Braveheart”, when the two sides charge into each other, smashing and snarling? That’s what kickoffs are like and guys get hurt. I’m open to seeing these eliminated if they are the primary play in which players get hurt.

  9. Why not leave the kicker where he is, move the teams further down the field, and not let them move until the ball is caught or hits the ground?

  10. I like the IDEA of the 4-15, as it would be exciting to watch, but I think it would detract from so much of the strategy of the game as it currently sits. A power running team would have a HUGE inherent disadvantage compared to say, Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Mannings teams.

  11. I could live with the kickoff at the 35-yard line and players starting at the 40-yard line without a running start. Not perfect, but better than the punt idea.

  12. Rodger, I hope you’re reading. Removing kickoffs will be the final straw for me. Say goodbye to the 5000 or so that just my little old self spends per year on the game you’re a minute away from ruining

  13. The weight limit doesn’t make sense. Lighter guys are faster than heavier guys. The collision force is a combination of weight and speed. Most of the truly devastating hits in the game come from DBs, not linemen… smaller players moving very fast at their targets. A field full of 215-pound guys who all run 4.5 or less on kickoffs will not reduce the collision injuries.

    And moving the kickoff to the 40 is a joke – we’ll just watch balls sail into the first row of the stands all day… and what do you do if there’s a carryover personal foul? Kicking the ball off from the plus-side 45 is no penalty to the receiving team if they’re going to get the ball at the 20 no matter where the kicker tees it up. If I’m a defender, that’s my opportunity to retaliate on an offensive player without hurting my team – just wait until a scoring play, commit a dead-ball personal foul, and my team gets the ball at the 20 anyway.

  14. Hopefully this will be squashed just like the 18 game season was.

    Perhaps the single worst idea for a rules change in the history of sporting events.

  15. why not just eliminate the Touchback? Kicking it into the Endzone would essentially be like kicking it out of bounds and result in the return team getting the ball at the 40.

    So kicking would essentially have to punt the ball high up with lots of hang time in order to pin the return team deep. To be safe kickers/punters would probably try to aim for the ball to drop around the 20 which would not give the coverage teams much time to run deep so the collisions wouldn’t be so big.

  16. Just take the ball out of bounds like B Ball…spot it at the 20. Kicking from the 40 would be the same thing as all the kicks would be touch-backs anyway. The weight limit is just plain dumb. Maybe a “special” special team of midgets in clown gear would be entertaining. Seems like a bad idea to mess with the game…what about turnovers, onside kicks, and the occasional big return? There is no way to make football safe, people get hurt, deal with it.

  17. Why are they trying to take all contact out of a contact sport? Maybe receivers should automatically be down where they catch the ball so they don’t get hit and get hurt. Maybe the defensive linemen should have to count to three before rushing to avoid QB injuries. When will this madness stop? The new NFL is turning into the powderpuff football league. I never thought football would lose popularity but keep taking the excitement out of it and it will. 56-49 games are not exciting. We already have arena league for that!

  18. I like ayoungandres’ idea above…aside from the kicker and the returner, have the other 10 on each side line up 5 or 10 yards apart, surrounding the receiving teams’ 30 yard line, and don’t let them move until the kick is caught or hits the ground…if the kicking team decides to onside kick, the kick must travel 30 yards…

  19. So placing a bunch of 200 lb guys who run a 4.3 will reduce injuries how? Speed can do just as much damage as mass. Where is the physics in that?

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