Bruce DeHaven: We need to change perception of kickoffs

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The NFL recently held a conference call between the league’s 32 special teams coach and NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino to solicit ideas for changes to kickoffs.

This year will see one big change as touchbacks will now come out to the 25-yard-line. It’s a move the league hopes will lead to fewer kickoff returns and fewer injuries during kickoff returns, although Panthers special teams coach Bruce DeHaven disagrees with that notion.

DeHaven said on SiriusXM NFL Radio with Zig Fracassi and Bill Polian that his conversations with other coaches lead him to believe that there will be a fair number of attempts to kick balls short in hopes of making tackles short of the 25, which would obviously be the opposite of the league’s intent. That’s why DeHaven said he’s told his fellow coaches that they’ll need to do something to change the way the injury risk on kickoffs is viewed if they are going to remain in the game.

“We’re gonna have to do something on kickoff, kickoff return that changes the perception of how the owners, the press and the fans view it,” DeHaven said. “If we don’t, they’re going to take it away. I just think that would be the worst thing we can do.”

One suggestion DeHaven had was to make changes to the kinds of blocks that are allowed, particularly anything that could be viewed as a wedge featuring players working in concert. That was one of the things discussed on the aforementioned conference call and there will be more to come if this year’s tweak doesn’t fulfill the league’s wishes.

37 responses to “Bruce DeHaven: We need to change perception of kickoffs

  1. As much as Goodell has tried to make the league ‘safe’, in his 10 years running the show, plenty of players are still disabled after their careers are over.

    It’s a violent game in which the players are meant to knock the crap out of one another. That’s the objective. The Panthers lost the SB because Denver was much more physical. Simple as that.

  2. Again… from a fan’s perspective, where are all these injuries from kickoffs they’re talking about?

    Currently, there is not a perception that players regularly get injured on kickoffs.

  3. Maybe we should just move directly to playing with a square ball and flags on all the players. That way we wouldn’t have bear witness to the NFL’s death by a thousand cuts.

    Please stop tinkering with the rules.

  4. If they want it out of the game, they should just take it out of the game.

    Remember when it was important to start watching the game on time because of opening kickoffs? Those were good times.

    Without kickoffs and other less-contact rules, I think I have more fun talking about football, than watching it.

  5. Do punts have less chance of injury?

    If yes, then replace kickoffs with punts.

    If no, then eliminate the kickoff and award the receiving team the ball on the 25. All in the name of “player safety”. On sides kicks will obviously be telegraphed.
    And , since punts are also dangerous, just award the other team 40 net yards, but never closer than the 5 yard line.

    Why not just eliminate special teams. Make the game “safer”.
    And why stop there? Dress the players in nerf foam uniforms. They won’t be able to move as fast, but injuries will be down.

  6. Can we just take a step back for a second? The NFL doesn’t need change. It never did. We’re sitting here trying to tweak this and eliminate that from a once-great sport. Why don’t we all just say, unequivocally, that football is a dangerous game with likely lifelong after-effects on your physical and/or mental well-being, and then let people decide if they’re willing to take the risks to play. It’s unfortunate that we live in such a lawyer-driven litigious society where everyone sues for everything and refuses to accept any personal responsibility, because make no mistake, this is all 0% about the safety of individual men and 100% about rich people not getting sued.

  7. The wedge was supposed to have been eliminated in 2009.
    The fact the folks at 345 Park Ave didn’t take into account that the rule change will of course lead to more returns not fewer shows just how out of touch with the game as it is played on the field they are.

  8. Leave the game alone. Kick returns are exciting, potentially game changing plays.
    Kickoff and punt returns are an important part of the game. We do not need to change them.
    I do however support moving the Extra point back. It was too much of a gimme at the 2.

  9. If they change the rules on how you can block, that will just result in more penalties, which will slow the game down even more.

  10. It is a choice to play football. Leave the rules alone and protect the integrity of the game. We all know what’s at risk, the players know what’s at risk. It is what is. The game is violent and beautiful and that is why they get paid handsomely. If you don’t want to risk injury then don’t play the game. As Mike Golic and some former players have said, they would do it all again. I agree, you do the best you can to protect the players but protect the game first and let the people decide if they want to play it by the rules that are in place.

  11. Why are they even still debating this crap? I remember back when they changed the kickoff starting point there were people who said they wanted to completely remove the kickoff and the nfl was just going one step at a time. We were assured that wasn’t the case. “player safety” they said. Now they don’t even try to lie to you! “we need to change the perception,” haha because lying to us about your intent did a great job there, NFL!

  12. funny you all blame Goodell for everything, he is just the face of the owners.. this all comes out of the competition committee and the want of the owners to protect there investment.. so instead of demonizing one man why dont you realize its the will of the 32 teams.. but its so much easier if you can go on thinking your owner(s) is the good one

    I am with others that have asked how many injuries actually occur during kick offs though, unless the concern is more long term brain damage..

    while I understand kick off is the most boring play in the game 99 out of 100 times, that one time it is ran back for a TD or even just good field position or a fumble is forced, becomes one of the most exciting and memorable plays in football so im a bit torn .. not every rule change is bad though, traditionalist need to just let go .. I love the new extra point rule

    another thing if you are a traditionalist you should be encouraged by rules trying to push players to wrap up tackle, this drive for defenders to lay the big hit instead tackling really became popular in the 90s and Im surprised coaches encourage this as it seems the risk of missing the hit and allowing a big play would out weight the benefit

  13. The next argument the NFL will make is about the pain and trauma caused by the balls getting kicked. They will point out the pain the balls go through when they are kicked.


  14. DeHaven is an extension of his team’s head coach in that they will say what they are thinking, rather than regurgitate the same tired, boring clichés they are all specialists in. It’s refreshingly honest to have a coach say that people’s perception is an issue, because it is – for the owners (protect the monetary investment), media (how it gets reported) and the fans (this is safer, Goodell is evil, etc.).

    Because DeHaven coaches a kicker that is always ranked near the top in number of touchbacks, I expect he has been coaching his kicker on moon shots that will be up in the air forever and come down at the 5 yard line where the rest of the special teams unit is already there, waiting for the returner to make a move. The Denver kicker should have a field day with this as well.

    I don’t know if this is good for the game or not. I will watch preseason games more closely, to see how this change affects things and to see if I can tell if more injuries are occurring during kickoffs than the rest of the game, which appears to be what the competition committee believes. Hard to pass judgment on a rule change until you see it play out.

  15. Give me a break on blaming the owners. Goodell has led the way on this and many other changes for the worse. None of this was on the table until he took over. He’s trying to feminize the game to make it appeal more to women.

    and I’d really like to see some proof that kickoffs are more dangerous than other plays. Jordy Nelson wasn’t hurt on a kickoff. Kelvin Benjamin wasn’t hurt on a kickoff. Darrell Stingly wasn’t hurt on a kickoff. Ricardo Lockette was but that’s an extremely rare occurrence.

    The “need” to reduce kickoff returns simply doesn’t exist.

  16. Nothing lasts forever. The NFL may very well be replaced by a new start up league. Todays kids want violence. Thats why MMA has all but killed boxing. Video games glorify war and the NFL is pussifying itself. Be carefull NFL. You may have survived against the USFL and XFL.. But that may not be the case next time.

  17. Here is something I just realized. The word “kickoff” is an important part of our language. In my company, when I new initiative starts, we call it its “kickoff”.

    The NFL talks about kickoff the season.

    Dozens of uses in and out of football.

    So the NFL essentially still wants to Kickoff. Just limit returns.

    OK – then here’s an idea. Two kickoffs per game – at the start of each half. Same rules as now.

    After each score, the opposing team starts at the 25.

    Similar as the tip-off in basketball (though there is only one now).

  18. seahawkboymike says:
    Jun 22, 2016 11:11 AM

    Give me a break on blaming the owners. Goodell has led the way on this and many other changes for the worse.
    You do know that Goodell works for the owners and he is following their desires, right? If the owners didn’t want it changed, he would be working on it.

  19. And still no data from the league about injuries on kickoff returns compared with any other play. The injury data needs to come first. Without it, this is a phantom “problem” invented for reasons unknown (but probably related to money somehow).

  20. The NFL wants players to stay healthy because it keeps the game more interesting. There is nothing worse than seeing a really good team fall of the charts because of injuries and lack of depth. We want to see the blue chips on the field.

  21. Eliminate the amount of players that are on the field during kickoff a and therefore you eliminate the potential for more injury. Let’s say you only have 5 blockers and returner on the receiving end and 5 defenders and the kicker on the kicking team. First it will open the field for big plays. It will also require teams to spread out more and eliminate the “wedge”. Then you will still have kickoffs returned for TD’s, probably more than ever. The NFL would keep the excitement of the kickoffs, bigger stars will emerge and The NFL loves it’s stars. This would also allow you to keep 5-6 guys on the roster that can add depth to the team and not just on the team because they can play special teams. Most teams would love to keep an extra D or O-lineman for depth.

  22. As long as they continue with these barbaric kickoffs, the placekicker’s toes are going to be at risk.

  23. petersjeffrey36 says:
    Jun 22, 2016 10:16 AM

    funny you all blame Goodell for everything, he is just the face of the owners.

    Regardless of whether or not Goodell has any autonomy, he fully deserves all of the blame and any scorn that is heaped upon him.

  24. Perception huh…..heres an idea….eliminate the blockers and have the return guy just face 10 guys trying to avoid them. If a team wants to attempt an onside kick, let them spin a wheel formulated to factor the % it’s successful. That would be fun to watch

  25. My favorite solution – if you kick it through the uprights on a kickoff, you get 1 point. Keeps it electrifying, it could be a real game changer requiring an awesome feat of power and skill, while coming at expense of kick returns. Fewer concussions, at least as much potential for excitement. C’mon, why not?

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