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.