Matthew Slater fears the demise of the kickoff

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The NFL continues to undermine the kickoff, this time with a one-year (minimum) shifting of the touchback point to the 25. And Patriots special-teams ace Matthew Slater doesn’t like where it’s heading.

“There’s a lot of speculation as to the future of the kickoff,” Slater told reporters on Thursday. “I know this year I think it’s going to be interesting to see how teams approach it because [the touchback] gives the team the ball on the 25 [yard line]. That changes field position quite a bit. It seems like just five yards, but it’s going to be interesting to see how we approach it and how other teams approach it, and I’m very disappointed obviously in the way that we’re discussing the future of the kickoff.

“The kickoff is a big part of the history of the NFL and the history of football and for us to be sitting here talking about maybe doing away with the kickoff, it’s very disappointing. I can think about days all the way back to watching my dad when he played with the Rams and thinking of returners like Ron Brown and people of that nature that made a career out of doing this. You think about Steve Tasker and his impact on the game of football, Bill Bates, the list goes on. The kicking game has meant a lot to the game of football and to a lot of players individually and it’s enabled guys to have careers. You think about Larry Izzo, you think about myself. Without the kicking game we don’t have a career. I’m very disappointed in some of the things I hear in regards to getting rid of the kickoff. I surely hope that’s not the case. I hope that’s not the direction that we’re moving in but we’ll see.”

Slater, like many others, isn’t sure the latest step toward ending the kickoff will have the desired impact.

“It might backfire,” Slater said. “We’ll see, we’ll see. I don’t know how other teams are going to approach it, and quite honestly I don’t know how we’re going to approach it yet. Right now we’re just practicing our techniques the same way we would as if it was last year. So, we’ll see but I certainly think there’s a possibility that a lot of coaches are not just going to want to hand teams the ball on the 25-yard line. So, we’ll see.”

But it’s only five yards, right? Slater doesn’t see it that way.

“That’s a half of another first down and moving that thing up, that field position is so big,” Slater said. “I’m not 100 percent familiar with the numbers but I think drives that start at the 25 certainly do end in scoring more often that drives that start at the 20 or behind that. Football to the common fan, they may not understand this, but it’s a game of field position. Field position is big in the game of football and if you’re just handing some of the great quarterbacks in this league an extra five yards I think it certainly changes the game. I certainly don’t want to give Tom Brady the ball on the 25-yard line. I’d rather him have it on the 20 if I’m playing against him or behind the 20. Field position is huge in this game and you’re adding an additional five percent of the field to the offense.

“I don’t feel like that’s the best thing for the game. I understand that they’re trying to do what’s best in terms of health and safety and I respect that. I’m obviously our union rep here so I think that there is nothing more important than the health and safety of our players, but I do not think that the kickoff is a hazard that we need to be thinking about getting rid of.”

The problem for the league continues to be the periodic public hand-wringing regarding the hazards of the kickoff, with football people calling it the most dangerous play in the game. If the league truly believes that, the league needs to get rid of the kickoff completely. If the league doesn’t truly believe that, they need to quit saying it.

And if the NFL ever gets rid of the kickoff and other plays deemed to entail too much risk for players, the league at some point needs to worry about the emergence of a professional football league that restores the many bone-crunching techniques of the past — with plenty of players willing to play football the way it was once played.

23 responses to “Matthew Slater fears the demise of the kickoff

  1. Too many rule changes. Can’t defend receivers any more. Penalties for barely touching a QB’s helmet. Games in London and Mexico City. Personal Fouls for what used to be good hard-hitting defense.

    Goodell and the owners are ruining the game.

  2. If the NFL gets rid of the kickoff because it’s the most dangerous play in the game, then that makes another play the most dangerous play in the game. Will they get rid of that play too? There’s always going to be a “most dangerous play” in the game. You can’t get rid of all of them.

  3. If the kickoff is the most dangerous play in the game, which it clearly isn’t, why would the NFL change a rule that will all but guarantee that teams are going to kick the ball into the field of play, rather than give the other team an extra five yards for a touchback?

  4. Kickoff and punts routinely result in exciting, often momentum swinging plays one way or another. One of the most exciting plays I’ve ever seen was the Dan Connolly kickoff return that completely turned around a game that the Patriots looked sure to lose. Why change this? Player safety, according to a Conmissioner that hates players and insults league fans at the draft? Great idea.

  5. Agreed that they should pick one of those two options, or to go with the third option of redesigning the kickoff system such as adjusting the starting placement of where the players are on the field along with the timing of when they are permitted to start such that they are close enough to engage in the same type of close-quarters blocking as with any other type of play.

  6. Remember when the NFL moved the kickoff back to the 30 yard line because touchbacks are boring?

  7. If the NFL wanted to insure that kickers would try to still put the ball into the end zone, in addition to placing the ball at the 25, they should’ve also made the kicking team line up 10 yards behind the kicker. H*ll, make the kicking team line up at the goal line.

  8. He should be more concerned with the legacy of cheating that stains the franchise he currently plays for… that will follow him for life.

  9. Love Matthew Slater. Well respected on and off the field.

    He knows he will never have the career that his father Jackie Slater had, but he has made himself into an all-time special teamer.

  10. Slater is busy preparing to add to his legacy of winning. That’s the only legacy the Patriots work on better than most, if not all.

  11. Soon they’ll be talking about tackling the way they’re talking about kickoffs.

  12. Is there a list of the players who were injured on kickoffs in 2015? Is there any actual data fans can look at?

  13. sactogary says:
    Jun 2, 2016 6:33 PM

    Is there a list of the players who were injured on kickoffs in 2015? Is there any actual data fans can look at?
    ——————–

    That information is the same warehouse that the Ark of the Covenant and the “random” PSI data from last season are being stored.

  14. Good idea eliminate all kickoffs.

    And The Patriots should get the 1st pick in the 1st round of the 2017 draft to make up for being cheated and smeared by the rest of the NFL.

    The Patriots will also earn the 32nd pick in the 2017 1st round because of the way they will play in the 2016/2017 season. That would give them two 1st round picks. And they should also have their 2017 4th round pick reinstated. And Brady should not miss any games.

    Once kickoffs are eliminated, the NFL can become honest and make the following rule changes just for Patriot games.

    No coin toss to start the game – the Patriots opponent is just given the ball at the start of each half of the game on The Patriots 1 yard line. And every time The Patriots score the opponent team starts with the ball on the 50 yard line. Every time the opponent scores The Patriots start with the ball on their own 1 yard line.

    Maybe these rule changes would satisfy the Patriots detractors and establish the anti-Patriot league parity that so many anti-Patriot fans seem to support. Then all the stupid people won’t have to keep denying science but the other 32 teams can still be handed a big advantage when they play The Patriots. These rules may even help keep The Patriots out of the playoffs.

    This would just be a more transparent way to create league parity than using the weather as an excuse to take away The Patriots draft picks and remove Tom Brady for 25% of a season.

  15. Good idea eliminate all kickoffs.

    And The Patriots should get the 1st pick in the 1st round of the 2017 draft to make up for being cheated and smeared by the rest of the NFL.

    The Patriots will also earn the 32nd pick in the 2017 1st round because of the way they will play in the 2016/2017 season. That would give them two 1st round picks. And they should also have their 2017 4th round pick reinstated. And Brady should not miss any games.

    Once kickoffs are eliminated, the NFL can become honest and make the following rule changes just for Patriot games.

    No coin toss to start the game – the Patriots opponent is just given the ball at the start of each half of the game on The Patriots 1 yard line. And every time The Patriots score the opponent team starts with the ball on the 50 yard line. Every time the opponent scores The Patriots start with the ball on their own 1 yard line.

    Maybe these rule changes would satisfy the Patriots detractors and establish the anti-Patriot league parity that so many anti-Patriot fans seem to support. Then all the dimwits won’t have to keep denying science but the other 32 teams can still be handed a big advantage when they play The Patriots. These rules may even help keep The Patriots out of the playoffs.

    This would just be a more transparent way to create league parity than using the weather as an excuse to take away The Patriots draft picks and remove Tom Brady for 25% of a season.

  16. I believe the elimination of the kickoff has nothing to do with player safety as the league claims.

    What it really is is an attempt to narrow the gap for parity.

    Think about it.

    The consistently better teams tend to have very good special teams with very good special teams coaching.

    The consistently bad teams tend to have bad special teams with bad special teams coaching.

    Eliminate a substantial portion of special teams plays and voila, the “parity gap” is narrowed without the bad teams having to do anything to improve.

    Its just another league lie that this has anything to do with player safety.

  17. Matthew Slater may be the best gunner in the history of the NFL. Teams actually try to game plan against him and still can’t block him.

  18. This is one of the more poorly conceived rule changes of the last several years and that’s saying something

  19. If they keep dumbing down the strategy of the game maybe opponents will have better odds competing against the Great Belichick.

    But I doubt it; all the bogus chicken crap the league has come up with hasn’t worked so far.

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