Pop Warner dumps kickoffs in three youngest age divisions

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The NFL keeps saying that the kickoff is the most dangerous play in the game. And someone apparently is listening.

At a time when the NFL is trying to reduce the number of kickoffs, Pop Warner youth football has decided to ban kickoffs at the three youngest age divisions.

“We are constantly working to make the game safer and better for our young athletes, and we think this move is an important step in that direction,” Pop Warner executive director Jon Butler told the Associated Press. “Eliminating kickoffs at this level adds another layer of safety without changing the nature of this great game.”

Instead of a kickoff, the ball will be placed at the 35 yard line at the beginning of each half and after scores.

As a practical matter, this change removes the possibility of an onside kick, which will make it much harder for a team that is trailing to narrow the gap. That’s likely one of the main reasons for the NFL’s failure to get rid of kickoffs.

The best alternative suggested to date (and it was good enough to make its way into a Time magazine profile of Commissioner Roger Goodell several years ago) came from former Rutgers and Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, who suggested that the kicking team instead has the ball at its own 30, facing fourth down and 15 yards to go. That team can then punt or go for it.

Is it perfect? No. But it’s the only way to both get rid of the kickoff, simulate it with a possible punt, give the team that is trailing a chance to get back in the game, and allow for the possibility of a surprise, via a fake punt.

66 responses to “Pop Warner dumps kickoffs in three youngest age divisions

  1. After the kickoff, the next thing to be attacked is the punt. It is just as dangerous as the kickoff for some players.
    Then, we can eliminate tackling, blocking and any other action that might cause injury.

    Football as we know it: RIP

  2. Future of the game, is that up til college they play safe ball. If you want to get paid, then you go get maimed in the NFL. Will that make everyone happy?

    I didn’t play as a kid and I wouldn’t let my kid play (I also don’t have or want children, but hey who knows), but I sure like watching NFL, and sure find college boring already (mostly because they are down without contact, but other reasons too). NFL guys should know by now that they are in for a brutal ride, that’s why they get paid so much. So I am fine with castrating the amateur game, so long as they leave the pro game alone to a certain degree (I like mayhem but I also like seeing the best guys on the field every play).

  3. This should have been done years ago. We need to protect brains, not prematurely injure them.

    I don’t want to hear anyone complain about the wimpification of America.

  4. Not surprising, as the kickoff is the most dangerous part of the sport.

    Still, I’d much rather they move up the kickoff or place the ball at the 35 for a touchback than remove it all together.

  5. As I’ve said before when this came up, the 4th and 15 scenario is awfully imbalanced. A team with a good QB could convert a 4th and 15 way too easily. In addition to that, the offensive team would be doing anything possible to try and draw a flag which would almost certainly lead to some poor sportsmanship and/or some super controversial calls from the refs.

    I support common sense rule reform to try and cut down on some of the injuries in the game, but at some point we all need to just admit that football is a violent game. People’s bodies get wrecked. They in all likelihood are incurring some sort of brain damage. As long as the players are all properly informed of the risks, it is what it is in my opinion. They are payed handsomely for taking those risks and people are lining up to do so. Many people work dangerous jobs will similar long term risks and they get paid peanuts for it.

    Inform the players, pay them enough to be set up for life, and let the game play on.

  6. Getting the ball back and staring at a 4th and 15 seems okay on the surface, but then you start to think about all the “interesting” calls the refs have made in the last few years and realize that just gives another opportunity for the refs to control the game. A phantom penalty on this play could give a new set of downs for the team that just scored, basically the refs could give back to back possessions to one team with a simple illegal contact call. Fix the officiating before you even look to make changes like this.

  7. I don’t want to see the kickoff eliminated from the game but I have no problem eliminating it from the youngest levels

  8. Oh, that’s just silly- the three youngest age brackets are 10 and below and under 115 pounds. They don’t get up enough speed to do any damage at that age not to mention most of them can’t even get the ball to the 35 anyway.

    Strictly a pr move for the worried moms.

  9. “I don’t want to hear anyone complain about the wimpification of America.”
    —————————————
    I don’t care about the wimpification – the wimps we’ll eventually be taken out in the wash, what I care about is the death of reason. Quit overreacting people and use the brains the good lord gave you for crying out loud.

  10. I was a little sad after having 2 daughters that they would not be able to play football their whole childhood to college like their old man… Well, thanks to the wussification of our society, that may change everything.

  11. If you’ve ever coached youth football, you realize that the three youngest age divisions are by far the most safe. The kids aren’t fast enough, heavy enough, or tall enough to deliver anywhere near the kind of impact that could cause a concussion.

    This is a stupid PR move. There are more concussions in sports like lacrosse and even girls soccer.

    This concussion thing is such an overblown issue.

  12. If you want to make football safer, get rid of all of the pads, helmets and anyone over the weight of 200 lbs. Another option is to arm one team with swords and spears and the other team without anything, including clothes or weapons. Wouldn’t be a game, but no one would get hurt.

  13. jjb0811 says:
    May 13, 2016 11:50 AM

    Glad I grew up in the 80’s and played football the way it was meant to be played.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Pffft. I grew up in the 60’s. We played football in the snow… on a field that was uphill both ways. We were too poor for fancy equipment so we made our own cleats with roofing nails and used a roadkill possum for a ball. Once it bloated up good, it was kinda the right shape and everything.

    Don’t try to tell me how tough you kids were in the 80’s. And stay off my lawn!

  14. The danger of the game is why football players maybe the only pro sports players that in a sense some players can be considered under paid. If you ask most football fans even though we know the risks we would trade the danger in a minute to play in the NFL. You can not manage the danger out of football. If the NFL goes too far changing the game in the name of safety they will end up losing a lot of traditional football fans. I’m in favor of making it safer. Listen to Ricardo Lockette talk about how easily he could have died during that kick return. The game must be made a safe as possible as long as it doesn’t fundamentally ruin the game.

  15. dewey51 says:

    I don’t want to hear anyone complain about the wimpification of America.
    ====================================

    Just because you don’t want to hear it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

    Here we go everyone. It’s beginning.

  16. Please, they got rid of kickoffs because most 10 year olds can only kick the ball 20 yards on a good day. It is just basically an onside kick anyways and the other team gets the ball near the 50.

  17. How does anyone believe that the kickoff is the most dangerous part of the game of football?

    I can’t remember the last time I saw anyone get hurt during a kickoff return.

    Most kickoffs these days sail right through the back of the end zone anyway, so there isn’t even a return.

    As for the onside kick, just give the “kicking” team the option of giving it to the other team on their 20 yard line, or attempting an onside kick.

  18. How ridiculous. If there was any stage of the game that the kick off is completely benign it’s at those age groups. Have you ever seen 3rd and 4th graders try to kick off? The ball bounces 20 yards, maybe.

  19. jeeze… being on the kickoff team was one of my favorite memories of playing Pop Warner

  20. Good, great decision. Now they have to work on weeding out the Pop Warner coaches that are living their dream thru their sons and players. One of the nicest days in my life was when my youngest son was too old to play Pop Warner. I know there are good coaches but if you are involved you have to admit a large number of them are just there to
    ” showcase ” their kids. Yes, both my sons played as starters. I felt it useless for the kids the coaches gave the minimum plays to while the coaches kid played the entire game, regardless if they were good or not. This is the same from state to state just change the kids and coaches names.

  21. armchairqb says:
    May 13, 2016 12:24 PM
    If you’ve ever coached youth football, you realize that the three youngest age divisions are by far the most safe. The kids aren’t fast enough, heavy enough, or tall enough to deliver anywhere near the kind of impact that could cause a concussion.
    ————————-

    Agree to a point. I coached Pop Warner for 10+ years and have to say that while that’s true of Tiny-Mite and Mighty-Mite once they get to the upper ranges of JR. PEE WEE (10-11 and up to 119 lbs) some of the kids can bring it compared to kids in the bottom of that range (8-9 and starting at 65 lbs). Can’t see where too much is gained by taking the kickoff out of the Mite games, definitely a PR move

  22. I only played league tackle football from 4th thru 7th grades (four seasons). And I recall the explanation, “he got his bell rung,” being put out there on the many occasions that one of us had helmet-to-helmet, helmet-to-shoulder pads, or helmet-to-ground contact so hard that we either didn’t get up right away, or we were dizzy upon standing. Recent scientific discoveries have me wondering, how many of those were actual concussions?

  23. raiderrob21 says:
    May 13, 2016 1:03 PM
    There goes about 4 TDs for that one kid no one can stop

    —————–

    Liberals will see this as an improvement to the game. They don’t want “one kid no one can stop” or any type of exceptionalism whatsoever. They just want everyone to be equal and feel good about themselves…..even if everybody sucks.

  24. jjb0811 says:
    May 13, 2016 11:50 AM

    Glad I grew up in the 80’s and played football the way it was meant to be played.

    —————————————

    And look at the success you’ve become now!

  25. Such garbage. Show me one drop of evidence that the Pop Warner kickoff is a more dangerous play. While the NFL has mega collisions in the NFL with huge, strong, fast men crashing at NFL game speed, this simply does not happen at this level of football.

  26. willycents says:
    May 13, 2016 11:57 AM
    After the kickoff, the next thing to be attacked is the punt. It is just as dangerous as the kickoff for some players.

    ————-

    Or they could use the CFL rule…

    “There is no fair catch rule in Canadian football: instead no player from the kicking team, except the kicker or any player who was behind him when he kicked the ball, may approach within five yards of the ball until it has been touched by an opponent. If they do, a “no yards” penalty is called against the kicking team. Penalties for “no yards” calls vary on whether the ball made contact with the ground or not. The penalty is 5 yards if the ball has bounced and 15 if the ball is caught in the air.”

    I think it’s the dumbest rule in the sport, but the NFL is probably looking at it right now! -_-

  27. I coached Pop Warner for 16 years, at most weight levels. Those saying that the younger/lighter levels are safer because of size and speed are absolutely correct. To remove kick-offs from the game is silly. My teams owe a lot of success to the on-side kick. And over those 16 years I learned one thing, Jon Butler typically doesn’t make any rule changes that don’t benefit the Eastern and New England Regions in some way. This one may be different but I am not convinced.

  28. Mongo, I couldn’t agree with you more. I have two grandkids playing 4th and 5th graders. One of their coaches thinks he is Vince Lombardi. He tells the kids you have to be mean, drive your body through the other guy. Knock somebody into next week. Makes 10 year olds run laps until they puke. Like a 10 year old is that much out of shape.
    And every coach’s son in the league is the QB. No one else even gets to try out for it. Same in Basketball coach’s kid is point guard and never sits out.

  29. “in three youngest age divisions”. So these kids won’t get their first experience with kick offs until they are big and strong enough to seriously injure each other. They’ll be running around the field like maniacs with no understanding of the consequences of their actions. Genius. What brilliant foresight. I fully expect this to lead to more concussions in youth football.

  30. Unless these kids are monsters, I don’t see how much harm can be done with kickoffs in the pee-wee leagues. Not much of a loss though – kickoffs done by kids are probably pretty lame anyways.

  31. All you experts who keep complaining about rules changes and making dumb comments about “how it used to” need to understand the game has been constantly changing from the very beginning. Would you rather have rules changes to protect players given new evidence of concussions, or entire seasons of football lost because of union strikes? I’ll take the former.

  32. Lawyers. This is all a result of NFLPA lawyers who prod NFL players to sue the NFL for every single injury that they get while under an NFL contract.
    The lawyers know that if they can create a PR nightmare for the NFL, or drag out a lawsuit, it costs the NFL one way or another. So they wear out the NFL until they settle. Then who gets the lions share of the winnings? The LAWYERS who never played a down in the NFL, college, or even HS football.

    Yet another example of how a weak-minded population (NFL players) are exploited by liberal lawyers looking to make a fast buck.

  33. Growing up my league didn’t do kickoffs until high school. It was always take it at the 30. Kids don’t have a leg to actually kick far enough.

  34. I played Guard for 9 years in the NFL, I was on the four man wedge in front of the returner… It was the closest thing to a Braveheart charge… I hated when the other team scored because I knew it was gonna be the most violent collision of my life… Thank God I became a starter and was taken off KOR, that’s Kick Off Return for all you wannabe athletes…. There was no concussion protocol… A sprained ankle was worse than a sprained brain… Happy for the kids…

  35. As a Pop Warner coach, the “safety aspect” of this rule is pretty much irrelevant. Most youth coaches onside kick anyways because the other team’s best runner is deep on kickoffs and you NEVER kick to them. After every score, even when it’s 35-8, there is an onside kick.

  36. Im an Athletic Training student in the Northeast and recently a track athlete on a team i was assigned to received a concussion from falling back into the wood bottom of his couch… (as silly as it seems its true) YOU CAN GET A CONCUSSION FROM DOING ANYTHING NOT JUST FOOTBALL. but you dont hear about couches being removed from living rooms now do you?

  37. I love the guys blaming a children’s sports league rule change on “the liberals.” The terms liberal, conservative, democrat, and republican all got hijacked by morons years ago. They don’t even mean anything anymore. For evidence, look no further than the current reality-TV show presidential “election.”

    Only half of the country even votes for the highest office in the land, and if I had to ballpark it, I would say only a single digit percentage of those voters have even a rudimentary understanding of the government policies and economics that they all squabble about. Land of the rubes.

  38. I like Schiano’s idea for replacing kickoffs, with one tweak: In case of a defensive penalty, the team putting the ball into play cannot gain a first down by penalty, and yardage from defensive penalties is applied to both the line of scrimmage and line to gain so that both are still 15 yards apart. Offensive penalties can still increase the yardage to go.

  39. Not a good idea. These kids won’t be prepared if the next commissioner rolls back the rules, or if a new, viable league is formed, or if they want to play in the CFL.

  40. I can’t see them removing kickoffs and replacing them with punts. They are just as dangerous for most players, especially the returner that camps under a high floater and decides not to call for a fair catch.

  41. All hail 8 and 9’year olds proving they are men. To the cumquat Moms and dad that bring the pop ups ? It means nothing. I honestly feel for people that think it does

  42. To all Pop Warner coaches pushing their kids. Bring it. 99% chance your kids, sons will be practice fodder in HS. Pissed? Prove me wrong, I have the numbers.

  43. “I only played league tackle football from 4th thru 7th grades (four seasons). And I recall the explanation, “he got his bell rung,” being put out there on the many occasions that one of us had helmet-to-helmet, helmet-to-shoulder pads, or helmet-to-ground contact so hard that we either didn’t get up right away, or we were dizzy upon standing. Recent scientific discoveries have me wondering, how many of those were actual concussions?”

    It doesn’t have to be a concussion to be a factor in permanent damage, especially if the person is involved in that type of activity for the injury to have healed. Which is why it makes a lot of sense to limit contact at the younger ages.

  44. dewey51 says:
    May 13, 2016 12:00 PM
    This should have been done years ago. We need to protect brains, not prematurely injure them.

    I don’t want to hear anyone complain about the wimpification of America.
    ———————————————————————

    Just more evidence of the wimpification of America.

  45. Within two years jr. and sr.high schools also will outlaw the kickoffs for safety concerns and then the colleges for certain.the pros have already made the kickoff so watered down you rarily see one run back and they will just put the ball on the 25 instead.

  46. We see advertisements, all the time, that advocate coaches who teach proper tackling, and other safety related measures. Isn’t tackling on a kickoff the same as tackling at any other point in the game?
    I understand wanting our kids to be safe, and really don’t have an issue with this age group eliminating the kickoff.
    But if older kids, and adults are taught proper technique, then why would we need to eliminate one of the most potentially exciting parts of the game?
    We’d lose watching Devon Hester, or Cordell Patterson (and a plethora of others) do what they do best.
    I for one, would hate to see that go.
    Persons who play this game should know, there is an inherent risk to well being, even when the safest of techniques are implemented, and used.

  47. for the past 40 yrs ‘ THEY ‘ have been very covertly trying to replace football with soccer as our national sport , part of ‘ OUR ‘ global initiative .

  48. Please show me where kickoffs have been proven creating more injuries than any other play. I’ve heard this for years, but where are the stats?

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