NCAA considers new rule to reduce kickoff returns, which will get the NFL’s attention

Getty Images

The NFL has already followed the NCAA’s lead in changing a kickoff rule once, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see it happen again.

The NCAA is currently exploring a rule change that would allow the receiving team to fair catch a kickoff inside the 25-yard line and have it treated as a touchback. The idea behind the rule is that it would reduce the number of kickoff returns, and therefore the number of collisions on kickoff returns, and therefore the number of injuries on kickoff returns.

It was college football that led the way on the rule that moved touchbacks on kickoffs out to the 25-yard line, rather than the 20-yard line. The NFL followed suit and adopted the 25-yard line rule.

If college football also adopts this new touchback rule, and it seems to work well, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the NFL do it as well. The NFL has said that its injury data shows that kickoffs result in more head and neck injuries per play than any other play in football, and the league wants to reduce those injuries. Touchbacks aren’t as exciting as kickoff returns, so not all fans would be on board, but the league will surely keep an eye on this NCAA proposal.

51 responses to “NCAA considers new rule to reduce kickoff returns, which will get the NFL’s attention

  1. Why not just do away with it all together along with the extra point by-kick. Allow for a pass or run two-point conversion (add one point if you make it from two-yard line on the ground, take away one point if you don’t make it).

  2. While you’re at it, you might as well have the defensive lineman and linebackers count to “5-Mississippi” before rushing the QB. That would eliminate injuries along the offensive line and protect the quarterbacks. Sound like a win-win to me…smh

  3. Lots of NFL KR’s currently run in out from the end zone where the touchback is both available the smarter option. I don’t see KR’s calling for fair catches in the rare cases when the kickoffs don’t make it all of the way to the end zone. College is different, the kickers legs are weaker.

  4. The NFL sure did love to capitalize on Devin Hester, Dante Hall, DeSean Jackson, Josh Cribbs, etc to showcase the excitement of kick returns.

    Then they moved the kickoff line, abandoned the wedge, and otherwise did everything possible to take the excitement out of the play.

  5. Horrible idea.

    How about just giving the team the ball on the 25 yard line to start any drive after a team scores. Kickoffs would only be for starting the game or starting a half with no stupid meddling with the placement of the ball. This way each team gets to kickoff and receive the ball the same number of chances.

  6. Based on what I’ve seen about the rule so far, while it generates the very expected talk of “flag football” and the “wussification” of the sport from the armchair Warriors, I’d be willing to bet that even if this rule is implemented, especially in college, there will be far more games than not where it doesn’t even come into play.

  7. I see guys returning kicks from 7 or 8 yards deep in the end zone. Even if its in their best interest to take a knee, that’s their competitive juices. They want to make a play.

    Good luck getting them to fair catch when there’s no tackler within fifteen yards.

  8. I don’t know about you guys, but i could honestly care less about kick returns these days. Every time a guy takes it out of the end zone and tries to do something, it just gets called back on a flag 90% of the time.

    It is almost impossible to have a kick return without it turning into laundry day on the field, so what’s even the point anymore?

  9. Why even have a kickoff? just start teams at the 25, if thats what they want.

    IMO, the kickoff changes, is one of the main reasons that NFL football is going downhill. The game starts off lame, people are not excited to be there at the start off games. And if they skip the start of the game… they are more likely to skip the rest of the game.

    Remember when you had Devin Hester or Brian Mitchell back there to start the game. YOU DIDNT want to miss it. Now its… Meh, going to be a knee anyways.

  10. I hope the XFL just uses the old NFL rulebook. The current rules suck. Get rid of replay too, even with slow motion, freeze frame, 10 angles… 50% of the final calls ends up in controversy

  11. At some point we come to “playing the game results in more injuries than not playing the game.”

    Im in favor of changes to make the game safer but simply removing large parts of the game is a questionable approach.

  12. hmmm…or you could just eliminate the kickoff, the field goal, the extra point, and punting all together.

    _____

    Everything that involves using a foot…..won’t be able to call it football anymore.

  13. Kickoff returns are best play in football, relax blocking rules, there are few injuries but lots of flags.
    1 in 20 returns should go for touchdown

  14. What would really be fun and what would put pressures on defenses is to change what happens after a team scores a touchdown…

    A team that successfully scores a touchdown AND a two point conversion would get the ball back instead of kicking it off; as the defense was nothing but a speed bump, they should not be rewarded by getting the ball back. This would also reward teams that go for two and who are successful at it. And this would also put a premium on teams with defenses that are good.

    And there would be no limit to re-possession of the ball after successful 8 point drives. It is up to the defense to stop the offense.

    If an offense scored a touchdown and kicked an extra point (or failed to complete a one point or two point conversion), then the opposing team would get the ball back on their 25 yard line.

    Also let’s reward successful field goals by yardage. Award a bonus point to a field goal over 60 yards.

  15. This game is dying before our very eyes. Soon there will be brain scan intent built into replay to know exactly what the player was thinking before every tackle. Honestly, I don’t know how these guys get jacked up to play anymore with how watered down and anti-violent the game has become. Pretty soon words/phrases like hit, dominate, impose, wear-down, inflict, and penetration will all be words of the past.

  16. Fair catch a kickoff?

    Then why bother?
    Just start the set of downs at the 25.

    Boring!

    Instead of this terrible idea Convert kickoffs to punts, just adjust the punt position. This will also cut down on concussions.

  17. “Everything that involves using a foot…..won’t be able to call it football anymore.”
    ________

    I’ve been calling it Throwball for years

  18. Then eliminate the kickoff play entirely and just start each possession on the 30 yard line. Quit wasting everyone’s time with some useless kickoff out of the end zone or fair catch – flat out boring.

  19. Results will be deep squib kicks, where you will have 3-4 players diving HEAD first at the ball

  20. When are we all going to realize, that the fans have no say in a game, that is funded by fans.

    Makes no sense.

    What rule changes will they make, when nobody watches anymore?

  21. NFL gonna do everything possible to water down the kickoff game except take it away completely. Why? When else do they get a 5 minute commercial break.

  22. There will still be collisions with gunners/blockers unless the return man calls fair catch immediately after the kicker makes contact with the ball

  23. NFL myopia is just astounding. Football will get to the point where every kickoff will be onside, where there is a ton of headcrunching.

    Most kicking should be removed from the game though. FG Kicking and Punting should remain but XPs should be changed. In flag football leagues across the US they have 1 pointers from 2 yard line and 2 pointers from 8-10 yard line.

  24. liontuss says:
    March 3, 2018 at 2:19 pm
    But when the NFL does it the player must demonstrate that he completes the process of the fair catch.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    “…and said demonstration will be considered complete only when the player has taken three (3) steps, done the funky chicken, and eaten a waffle.”

  25. As me joke (mostly) with “just start each drive at the 25” remember this joke also removes the onside kick.

    As they take away the kick off, they take that away too.

  26. harbaughtothebears says:

    March 3, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    When is the XFL starting?
    _____________________________________

    I don’t know, but I hope it’s like the old NFL Blitz game. The polar opposite of what the NFL is becoming.

  27. Should we even call it football anymore?
    This is not the same thing I grew up watching & playing.

  28. How about you roll a 20 sided die and whatever number comes up you check a chart on the sidelines to see where the offense gets to start.

    You could have a lucky fan roll an oversized die with an emcee cheering them on.

  29. Remember when receivers could be hit/leveled even if the ball flew over their heads. QBs would get benched because of getting their own guys killed with bad decisions….(hence the term, ‘hanging your receiver out to dry’). It’s a free for all now. No longer is there an enforcer on defense…legal big hits get flagged just for looking ‘violent’. They should probably experiment with Velcro flags in next year’s pro bowl and eliminate tackling all together soon.

  30. kenmasters, are you seriously trying to argue that if a football fan misses the opening kickoff, they’re just like “screw it” and skip the whole game? “oh well i didn’t see the first 3 seconds of the game, might as well just ignore the next 3 hours of actual game play too”

    That is one of the weakest arguments i’ve ever heard for anything. I get that a kickoff CAN potentially be exciting for the 10% of them that get returned (well, that is for the 10% of that 10% which aren’t called back on penalty…) but dude, the opening kickoff means about as much as the coin toss. It’s more ceremonial than integral to the game itself. Anyone who would skip an entire game for missing it really isn’t a fan at all to begin with. What’s the point in trying to pander to those who would actually be that fickle?

  31. When i played college football I hated playing kickoff and kickoff return due to the pain involved with each play. I can only imagine the cumulative damage done at the NFL level.

  32. I personally don’t like the rule…BUT…if it drastically cuts down on head and neck injuries then I’d be OK with it. Either way it doesn’t affect us but for those players who get a life-changing injury it makes a difference. It wouldn’t surprise me if they eventually just put the ball at the 20 or 25 and forgo the kickoff already.

    However, if they say they are doing this to cut down on the number of head and neck injuries and do practically nothing about them for the rest of the game then what’s the point? When you have repeat offenders getting nothing but a slap on the wrist how does that help? Until the NFL starts kicking players out of games AND suspending them these egregious hits are going to continue to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I hate taking the physicality out of the game but there are too many life-altering injuries due to leading with the helmet. Maybe the NFL should start telling its players to tackle properly.

  33. halfcentaur says:
    March 3, 2018 at 2:41 pm
    I don’t know about you guys, but i could honestly care less about kick returns these days. Every time a guy takes it out of the end zone and tries to do something, it just gets called back on a flag 90% of the time.

    It is almost impossible to have a kick return without it turning into laundry day on the field, so what’s even the point anymore?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    How much of that is the NFL telling officials to be quick with the flags in order to artificially reduce the number of returns? They often have special interest penalties and the refs throw flags play after play. I don’t think it is out of the realm of possibility for the league to want intentional BS flags (ticky-tack/away from the play) on kickoffs.

  34. ovaw8lova says:
    March 3, 2018 at 8:01 pm
    When i played college football I hated playing kickoff and kickoff return due to the pain involved with each play. I can only imagine the cumulative damage done at the NFL level.

    ==============

    I never played college, but personally, I loved playing special teams. When coach asked “Who wants to run 40 yards full steam and try to knock a guy onto his backside?” I was all in. If you don’t want to risk getting hurt, then be the kicker.

  35. I don’t think it’ll change things much. A kick returner wants to take it to the house. He’ll return it if it’s only a yard or so deep in the end zone, let alone at the 5 or 10 yd line. But, it makes sense if the kicker can make it seem like a punt.
    Plus, this still allows for a surprise onside kick. Can’t take the kickoff out of the game.

  36. Why not eliminate the 10 yard running start and have the players line up like they do for a punt…the returner is not the guy getting hurt it’s the rest of the crazies that all run sub 4.5 running into each other at full speed

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!