Jay Gruden says Washington will try short kickoffs


The NFL’s one-year experiment regarding the touchback rule could end up going about as well as Peter Brady’s volcano. (Kids, let the older folks have a little fun, OK? You’ve already got Pokemon.)

Count Washington coach Jay Gruden among the possibly many who plan to try to put the kickoff high and deep, with the ball landing short of the goal line and the opposing offense potentially pinned inside the 25. That, if it happens, will defy the league’s desire to reduce the occurrence of what it regards as “the most dangerous play in the game.

“[I]t’s going to change a little bit,” Gruden told reporters. “We’re going to experiment. You know, we’ll see what Dustin [Hopkins] is good at. We’re going to try some of the pooch stuff and try to pin them back. We don’t want to just succumb to the 25-yard line. He’s got a powerful leg and one of the reasons he’s here is because of his leg strength and kicking the ball off through the end zone.  But he can get the height and pin people back to the one if we get them tackled inside the 20. That can be another great option for us. So, we’re going to explore all different options. We haven’t obviously decided on one yet but that’ll be determined later once we see what he can and can’t do.”

Gruden realizes that the change in the touchback flows from an effort to phase out kickoffs.

“I’m sure they’re probably discussing that possibility, and you know, that’s something everybody’s looking at due to the speed of the kickoff and the injuries that might happen on kickoffs, but it’s been an exciting part of football for a long time,” Gruden said. “It’d be unfortunate if it were to be dismissed from football in my opinion. But my opinion doesn’t really matter. I think it’s an exciting part of the game and something that’s very important to the game.”

The bigger question is whether the NFL would consider ditching the new rule during the season, moving the touchback point from the 25 back to the 20 before all 256 regular-season games have been played. The league usually resists that type of adjustment to ensure an apples-to-apples dynamic for competitive reasons. But given the clear safety concerns that come from players running at each other in opposite directions and at full speed, the NFL may feel compelled to make the adjustment in order to better protect the players.

After all, that’s why the touchback rule changed in the first place. If it’s going to actually increase the number of kickoff returns, it makes sense to make the adjustment sooner than later.

9 responses to “Jay Gruden says Washington will try short kickoffs

  1. Watch, a new rule will come in next year that if the kickoff goes higher than a certain height or stays in the air too long the ball we be spotted at the 25 yard line.

  2. The biggest problem from eliminating kickoffs is that it will cut down on fan’s hope. If there are no onsides kicks, certain franchises will see their fans streaming out the door at half time. The onside kick allows fans to hope and believe in a game that has not been going well. If there are no onside kicks we will be changing the very nature of the game.

  3. I agree with Gruden the kickoff should be preserved but improved . Let the league try some things and adjust accordingly.

  4. It’s ridiculous to think that college and pro football could soon have no kick returns. Let’s get back to the way it was taught in little league… One on one blocking, no wedges, blocks above the waist, etc… I know there have been some tough injuries because of one guy running into 3, but I don’t remember a lot of injuries on the tackle compared to players hurt when the offense/defense is on the field. High speed collisions happen all the time in football, especially when the safety comes from 10-20 yards away flying in to make a tackle.

  5. Could someone please provide some actual information? How many injuries occurred on kickoffs last year? What kind of injuries? How does that compare with other plays?

    I keep hearing about there being a lot of kickoff injuries, but I feel like I rarely see them when I’m watching games.

  6. Genuine question – are there actually a higher number of injuries on kickoffs than other plays?

    Obviously, there are fewer kickoffs in a game than other types of plays, so I mean proportionally.

    I know the league has talked about improving safety on kickoffs for years but is that just because they can think of things to do about it, or is it because they really do result in a bunch of concussions (the injury that matters)?

    Anecdotally, I don’t feel like I notice a lot of kickoff injuries but perhaps I’m wrong. The impression I get is that the league wants to give the appearance of caring about player safety, but that measures like this don’t actually succeed in making the game any safer – especially for head injuries.

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