Dear NFL: Go ahead and get rid of the kickoff

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You win, NFL. You’ve been gradually chipping away at the kickoff — dubbed for years now the most dangerous play in the game — with the goal of making it easier for everyone to deal with the elimination of the kickoff when it eventually happens. Perhaps the hope was that the sense of inevitability would grow to the point that the calls for the end of the kickoff would come from the outside.

Regardless, and to quote Schwartz when Flick was hesitating to touch his tongue on the frozen flag pole, “Go on, smartass, and do it.”

Yes, NFL, go ahead and do it. When the owners get together in May, cast 32 votes to eliminate the kickoff for good.

We all know it’s coming. So we can talk about it for the next year or two, while the most dangerous play in the game remains part of the game, or we can just get rid of the damn thing now.

The plan for dealing with the most dangerous play in the game shouldn’t be using it less, it should be using it never. When there’s a dangerous table saw in a machine shop, a responsible foreman doesn’t say, “Use it less.” A responsible foreman says, “Don’t use it at all.”

So do it. Quit talking about it, and do it. Replace with with Greg Sciano’s idea, first floated by Commissioner Goodell in 2012, to give the kicking team the ball at its own 30 yard line, facing fourth and 15. Punt the ball (a far less dangerous play, since players aren’t running directly at each other at full speed before impact), go for it, or run a fake punt.

It’s going to happen sooner or later. Make it happen sooner, so we can all quit wondering when it’s finally going to happen.

103 responses to “Dear NFL: Go ahead and get rid of the kickoff

  1. It’s football. It’s dangerous. Stop trying to ruin it, because players can get hurt anytime. Players are taken out in non-contact situations all the time. Change for the sake of change is ridiculous.

  2. Mike, do you ever take time off?

    Just wondering.

    Kickoff is part of the game.

    Whats next, flag football?

  3. I really need to see some stats on kickoff injuries. Since they took the wedge out of it, I just don’t see that many injuries on kickoffs. It is the most penalized play, but is it really the most dangerous?

  4. In a “shop” full of dangerous equipment, the foreman says “that slightly more dangerous but unique-purpose piece of equipment, don’t use it”? Methinks Mr. Florio has limited industrial experience.

  5. I’ve seen a lot of changes to the kickoff and people advocating for changing it or getting rid of it all together. What I haven’t seen is how many injuries there are on this specific play, and a comparison to this specific play to other. I’m willing to bet there’s not much difference, if any. The kick off is a hot topic. But, aren’t most brain injuries from repetitive hits? Like running backs getting tackled 20+ times a game. Or linemen colliding on literally every single play? But, the NFL doesn’t talk about that – too big of a threat to the game, fellas?

  6. Data can be a great way to justify your point, especially if you groom it enough. I am wondering. If it really is the most dangerous play in football. I am old enough to remember Darryl Stingley getting paralyzed ( not a kick off) joe Thiesman’s leg getting broken ( not a kickoff) and the Vikings middle linebacker Henderson getting his leg snapped like a twig on a passing play. It makes sense that these guys get a much bigger running start at each other on a kick off, but I assume someone did an objective study on this? It just seems odd if this were this. Bad, with the thousands of games from peewee to the pros that it hasn’t been dealt with a long time ago.

  7. Don’t agree. Its becoming flag football period anyway. So while your at it, get rid of the helmets, shoulder pads and strap on the streamers. Get it over so I can move on to other sports. Football is dying before our eyes……

  8. You can no longer call the game football if you remove kickoffs. Football is an inherently dangerous sport. The day that it is changed so much that it is no longer dangerous is the day that most people will quit watching it.

  9. And …. why are they playing the Thursday night games?

    I bet more people get hurt on that day, then kickoffs.

  10. in the last five years or so i went from watching football pretty much nonstop and having sunday ticket to no ticket and maybe one or two games a week the more rule changes takes the game i grew up watching to something i call fake football flags on every play, rules only enforced occasionally no kickoffs will put it one step closer to no football which is fine by me because there is a lot more to do in life than to watch fake football

  11. Yes, then a few years from now get rid of whatever is then the most dangerous play in the game. Probably a long pass. Can’t have those. Or runs up the middle. Maybe in a decade or so we’ll just be watching one guy representing a team playing Madden on tv. If you want to make it less dangerous, have the teams line up on the 50 yard line, but have the kicker and returner set back from the lines. It’s ridiculously simple.

  12. It might be more dangerous for the 10 guys who are blocking but as someone who has returned punts and kickoffs, I hated the punt returns. Too many missed blocks and you’re on an island.

    You really want to do it right? Kickoff from the 45 or 50. Team gets the ball on the 20 if it’s a touchback. Obviously way more onside kicks and if it goes out of bounds (without a deliberate action by the receiving team) they get the ball on the 50. That would make for more exciting plays and some strategy and split second decisions.

    So you have the best of both worlds. No 100mph collisions, exciting strategy after every scoring play and even some ‘pooch’ plays. Leave in the fair catch. Ball gets placed on the 30 or if past that spot, on that spot.

    Everyone is happy, except the kick returner but that’s 64 guys who aren’t going to be happy anyway, as the KO is doomed. At least they will have a once in a while chance.

    Let’s not forget about all the fringe players. Terrell Davis may never have made it to the HOF without that ST play.

    Roster decisions changes. Now you will suit up 4 QB’s and 10 Olman. Although they really should be able to suit up 3 QB’s and a few more Olman and 53 should suit for a game. Not really fair the Dline gets to rotate when the Oline does not.

    There is a way to save it. They need to let everyone send in ideas and let Roger earn is 40 million by reading them all. Odds are SOMEONE besides me may even have a better idea.

  13. The plan for dealing with the most dangerous play in the game shouldn’t be using it less, it should be using it never. When there’s a dangerous table saw in a machine shop, a responsible foreman doesn’t say, “Use it less.” A responsible foreman says, “Don’t use it at all.”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    This kind of myopic thinking drives me crazy. I disagree but, for the sake of argument let’s assume kickoffs are in fact the most dangerous play in the game and therefore MUST be eliminated. That means that something new will be the most dangerous play in the game… The truth is that eliminating kickoffs WILL NOT ELIMINATE the most dangerous play in the game; it can only change it to a new play. People keep claiming that the play is dangerous but after elimination of the wedge that claim lacks any semblance of validity. What can’t be denied is that kickoffs are plays that can have a strong strategic effect and are often one of the most exciting plays in the game and for that reason alone they should remain. Wanting to eliminate kickoffs is just part of a league strategy that has very little to do with safety.

  14. So what happens when you get rid of the most dangerous play in the game? A new most dangerous play steps up to take its place.

  15. Yeah, because punt returners never get clocked by defenders flying full speed down field before a punt is safely fielded.

    Can’t remember the last time I ever saw a kickoff returner field the ball at the exact second a defender was about to lay him out.

    Dumbest.Idea.Ever. By everyone.

    Next move, replace tackling with little white flags tucked into player’s waistbands.

  16. The most dangerous play in the game? I have yet to see anyone post credible stats proving this. Whats next? Wide receivers going across the middle? Just terrible.

  17. Also consider Its going to put people out of jobs and make the legacies of players like Devin Hester a joke. It’s bad enough kickers kick with overinflated helium filled balls from midfield with a 20 yard running head start to ensure that there is almost no return. As far as I’m concerned you already got what you want.

  18. Killing the league one rule change at a time. These players know what they’re signing up for. Most of them have put their health on the line playing the same game since they were 5/6/7 years old with the dream of making it to the nfl and making money to play the game they’ve committed so much time and effort to.

    In a time when people are getting louder about expanding game day rosters, it makes no sense to remove kickoffs. Aside from the kicker, 90% of special teamers are fringe/depth players. Why would you kill all of those positions, yet expand gameday rosters? Owners would be paying more players for less production.

  19. Based on the responses to this article and the like/dislike ratios, 99% of fans want kickoffs to remain.

    Where does it stop? What can be eliminated next? Running up the middle? Be honest. Flag football is the end game here, right? The NFFL does have a nice ring to it.

  20. This idea would screw a lot of fringe players who make their bones on special teams. What would Devin Hester have been without kickoffs? Josh Cribbs? Even Deion Sanders would just be known as a good cornerback. I’m all for improving safety, but this would cost guys a shot at a career, and I’m not for that.

  21. Dear NFL,
    Also make crossing routes illegal. And make sure WRs aren’t allowed to leave their feet to catch a pass, cuz y’know that’s even more dangerous than a kickoff. While we are at it, no more FBs cuz all they do is hit people, which is crazy dangerous.

  22. Honestly will not miss it. Running the ball back has become fruitless. How many games did the runner get past the 25. Or even the 20 for that matter.

  23. It seems like every kick off goes out of the end zone and it’s a touchback. Might as well just get rid of it at this point and just start with the ball at the 25.

  24. 15 yards apart… except for the kicker and 1 or 2 return men.

    No full speed, 60 yard sprints, and the collisions the NFL wants to go away.
    Special teams players keep their jobs. The game doesn’t completely give up
    on a play used since it’s inception. Everyone wins.

  25. So, how does a team retain their possession if the opportunity of an onside kick doesn’t present itself? Are their other ways for the NFL to make the game safer without this happening?

  26. I doubt it’s significantly more dangerous than the rest of the game, honestly. Of course, I also think that switching to leather helmets and smaller pads would discourage players using their bodies as weapons, but whatever.

  27. Also, I keep seeing all these calls for the kickoff to go away, and not a single one calling for the ads to disappear. Just saying.

  28. But then this leads to, “Go ahead and expand to 18 games”, and then, “Go ahead and play games in China”, and then, “Go ahead and relocate a team to London”.

  29. Once the kickoff is eliminated, the last team to win a Super Bowl before that rule change; will be the last true Super Bowl winner. Anything after that, will be flag football champion.

  30. Glad to see everyone’s support of keeping the kickoff. It adds an important layer to the game where your team can gain an edge–special teams. The game becomes one dimensional without it.

  31. Once the kickoff is removed, another play inherits the title of “most dangerous play.”

    Based on the logic Mike provides above, the NFL should then get rid of that play.

    And so on, and so on …

  32. Kickoffs are, and always have been, part of the game of football. if you eliminate kickoffs, you are fundamentally changing the game and turning it into soccer (which I loathe, by the way). Getting rid of kickoffs is ridiculous. It would be like eliminating the pitcher’s mound in baseball or something. Stop tinkering with the basic elements of the game.

  33. Rman i used to be a RABID nfl fan….stats junky, studied the game, watched every game available….

    Now ive just fallen out of love with it , and its for reasons like this. This isnt some threat of “do it and ill never watch again”…..its just an honest fans observation. I dont think im alone.

  34. Teddy Bridgewater, Richard Sherman, Jordy Nelson. What do these three examples have in common? They all sustained season (almost career for Teddy) ending injuries on NON CONTACT plays in recent years. So, what now? Are we banning the field or the cleats?

    Get real.

  35. I notice all the folks who want to keep the kickoff don’t make their living getting blasted by a 250 pound athlete of steel arriving at warp speed. The stale argument centers around ‘tradition’. Well, like the Redskins logo, tradition isn’t always right. In essence what you’re saying is, ‘I don’t care if someone is permanently injured just so I can have my pleasure’. When the Packers won the first Super Bowl, the average NFL lineman was less than 250 pounds. The average running back was less than 200 pounds. The athletes today are larger, faster.
    The way the NFL does the kick also impacts the flow of the game. Years ago Bill Bellichick said put the ball on the 25 yard line and go. No more stop three times for a commercial break.
    I don’t care about kickoffs. There are so few scoring plays from it(or field position changes) that it’s become a near meaningless part of the game.
    If you want to see people get hurt, I suggest smacking yourself in the face in a mirror.

  36. Listen it’s a dangerous game, that’s why the owners pay the players so much to play a kids game. Get rid of kickoffs the owners product will die before their eyes, watch!

  37. too many opportunities for commercials for the league to remove kickoffs. what am i saying, they’ll find ways to go to to commercial regardless

  38. Forget this.
    The game needs the kickoff.
    Forget the 25 yard line garbage too.

    What they ought to do is eliminate the touch back.
    Require the ball to be kicked within the field of play.
    If it does not at least hit inside the one then it needs to be a penalty.
    If it is kicked within the field then it must be returned or downed.
    Returns starting around the 5 would be a lot better than starting every set on the 25.

    Maybe change the lineups a little IF data truly warrants it.
    Quit trying to kill the game.
    There is a reason it has been popular for 100 years.

  39. Let’s keep the kickoff but make all of the players wear those fake sumo wrestler suits to keep from getting hurt. Or we could wrap them in bubble wrap and make them run the ball back in a giant moon bounce.

    It’s stupid to say that we need to take away an element of the game because it is dangerous. Football is dangerous. Some of that danger is what makes it fun. To change an aspect of the game because it is dangerous is like putting a suit of armor on a professional boxer or replacing baseballs with bean bags.

    Keep in mind, too, that rugby has some similarities to football and the ruggers have no pads or helmets. You don’t see them redesigning the game because players get hurt.

  40. … and when that decision comes the NFL can change their name to the NPL and I will stop watching games.

    Kick offs are an integral part of the game. Do you honestly think that punts will be any safer? A team only needs the ball to go 10 yards on a kick off, yet you say it should be considered a 4th and 15 play? Most punts are safer due to the shorter nature of the punt for field position. Is it fair for a punt to sail out of bounds inside the 10 and that’s where the team takes over? OK… Make sure the ball doesn’t go out of bounds, then you’re either forcing the punting team to punt shorter to pressure a fair catch, or longer to mitigate any return.

    Then you might as well prevent defending teams from returning field goals that fall short as that could be as dangerous as a kick off.

    Soon you will be pushing for players to either walk out of their tunnel during player introductions, or be slowing driven out in a vehicle of some sort with all their seatbelts tightly fastened.

  41. By this logic boxing should eliminate punching above the shoulders. Because that’s dangerous. Only body shots. Maybe linesman should avoid touching electrical wires, because that makes their jobs dangerous. Maybe crab fisherman should only fish from shore, because going out on those boats on the ocean is pretty dangerous. Or do occupational hazards exist? As long as we know about them, then people can choose whether or not they want to go into those lines of work. Including football.

  42. mongo3401 says:
    April 18, 2018 at 12:12 am
    Honestly will not miss it. Running the ball back has become fruitless. How many games did the runner get past the 25. Or even the 20 for that matter.
    _______________________________

    So what you’re saying is that due to strong defensive special teams play – which can sometimes be as exciting as a long return – the NFL should just do away with kick offs?

    Have you not considered that there is a reason why teams still return the ball – for that chance of an immediate reply of 6 points to having just given up a score?

    Weak comment my friend!

  43. As many have stated above, when did kickoffs become “the most dangerous play in the game?”

    I don’t remember any terrible injury happening on a kickoff in recent memory. Seriously, cite an example.

  44. I once knew a guy who was happy that people would stop watching hockey because of fighting. He was glad that the bandwagon folks were leaving.

    All you “stop changing the rules or we’re leaving” guys, hasta la seeya. Please also leave this place. There’s not enough cheese in Green Bay to go with all the whine.

  45. Replace the kick off with a punt is ok, I guess. Mike Westhoff had a similar idea.

    I just hate making touchbacks common. At least with the punt from the 30 yard line there will be action.

  46. To bad they have been ruining the kickoff, I love watching kickoffs always hoping for something exciting to happen.

  47. Please leave football alone. There are already to many flags thrown for ticky tack fouls. Keep on NFL, you’re gonna legislate yourself right out of business.

  48. I like having the kickoff. I think it changes the game, but I understand why people are looking to get rid of it. I think they should try setting up Punt and Punt return team to open the game. I believe it’s a safer play, because players are not getting a 10 yard head start, running full speed, and running into someone. From what I can tell, players usually run somewhat with each other on punt/punt return and kind of try and stay in front of them blocking. Start the game by punting from the 40 (punter is usually 10 years deep, so the kick is actually around the 30).

  49. Wouldn’t it be simpler to change the way kicks are allowed to be run? What if all but the max of 2 receivers on the receiving team had to be within 20 yards of the kick off point. (if they aren’t you call an off sides and rekick). Then, on the kick, players on receiving side are required to engage with the nearest blocker and may give up no more than ten yards.

  50. FIX THE HELMETS…

    The ProCap was used with “successfully” by Mark Kelso for 4 yrs after his career was threatened due to repeated concussions, yet the NFL refuses to use them.

    The ProCap is very simple concept..an layer of padding 1/2″ thick padding added to the outside of a player’s existing helmet. You can type in ProCap and search their history…then you might wonder WHY NOT, NFL?

    The NFL’s stance on a ProCap concept makes NO SENSE and Goodell needs to be called out to answer WHY NOT?

  51. harryhodag says:

    April 18, 2018 at 7:17 am

    I notice all the folks who want to keep the kickoff don’t make their living getting blasted by a 250 pound athlete of steel arriving at warp speed. The stale argument centers around ‘tradition’. Well, like the Redskins logo, tradition isn’t always right. In essence what you’re saying is, ‘I don’t care if someone is permanently injured just so I can have my pleasure’. When the Packers won the first Super Bowl, the average NFL lineman was less than 250 pounds. The average running back was less than 200 pounds. The athletes today are larger, faster.
    The way the NFL does the kick also impacts the flow of the game. Years ago Bill Bellichick said put the ball on the 25 yard line and go. No more stop three times for a commercial break.
    I don’t care about kickoffs. There are so few scoring plays from it(or field position changes) that it’s become a near meaningless part of the game.
    If you want to see people get hurt, I suggest smacking yourself in the face in a mirror.
    ——————————-
    Nobody is forcing them to play for the minimum $500k salary AT LEAST!
    Grow a pair dude!

  52. And after we remove the most dangerous play in the game we will move to the next most dangerous play in the game and so forth until there are no more plays in the game. A kickoff return for a TD or a successful onside kick can be two of the biggest game changing plays in the game. More and more I am convinced the NFL is run by complete idiots.

  53. Just get rid of tackles. The NFL has been making that worse and worse, its at the point where defenders have to stand upright, while a runner smashes his helmet into the defenders chest.

  54. Kickoff returns can be exciting and game changing. But, we see so few now, that I won’t miss it that much if it were gone. And, maybe we can get rid of the commercial break/touchback/commercial break during games if they change it.

    But, one thing that change might do is actually give a trailing team a better chance. Sure, having to convert a 4th and 15 would be difficult to retain the ball, but I would like my odds better with that then trying to attempt an onside kick when the receiving team is ready for it. How many non-surprise onside kicks are successful? Is it more than 1-2 per season? But, converting a 15 yard play, possibly against a tired defense, would seem more likely. So, it might make a comeback from more than 8 pts slightly more likely to occur. And, maybe a few teams will come up with good fake punts, which are probably just as likely to work as surprise onside kicks.

  55. They can keep kickoffs. Just no longer the receiving team the ability to progress the hall. Done. Problem solved, and we still get a kicking game and kickoff strategy.

  56. One of the most exciting plays in football and NFL wants to get rid of it. If so look at the whole picture 1. You take away 1 players job to return kicks. 2. Half the special team players are gone because then the punt kicker will just kick the ball out of bounds or 10 miles in the air to force a fair catch. Maybe the only good thing would be getting rid of 10 minutes of commercials between the KICK-OFF ans the start of the first play. No one is attacking the worst thing of all commercials let’s get the game down to 2 and 1/2 hours. Also cut out the Referee walking over to review the play and taking his sweet time to make the call. The so called referee in NY reviews the play when challenged and makes the call period.

  57. OMG I disagree with this 100%. And as a current season ticket holder the second the get rid of kickoffs I’m out. You’re need for safety will never stop. We are seeing the last of what will be remembered as football. I weep for the future of this game. It sounds like helicopter moms are running this.
    It’s a dangerous sport and there will always be something..and there will always be people who want to get the next item eliminated.
    Go watch baseball. And get outta here!

  58. Let’s make it non contact at all times. No point in having any chance of people getting hurt. Oh, wait. The worse kinds of injuries in the NFL are the non contact variety.

  59. No. Don’t get rid of kickoff. Leave football alone. And seriously? To start every game a team is at their 30 with a 4th down? No. Kickoffs are part of the game. Special teams is how a lot of people make a team and a career. I haven’t seen nearly as many acl tears or broken limbs or careers ended on a kickoff. It’s called part of the game. LEAVE IT ALONE! You’re gonna eventually turn it into a sport that isn’t even football. No one else changes their rules and how their sport is played and neither should football!

  60. Let’s stop pretending this isn’t a contact sport. If you don’t want to risk concussions and injuries don’t accept the millions of dollars you get paid to do So! Lord it’s not that difficult!

  61. Here is the 1000th way to take care of kickoff’s but this might work. Kickoff from their own 30. Receiving team sets up as they have. Kicking team lines up on the 30 except the kicker, who approaches and kicks the ball as before. The only player on the kicking team that can move before the ball is put in play is the kicker. Onside kicks are still in play. Returns will “return”, but because the kicking team won’t have that 10 yard headstart, those collisions that are the concern would be at a lesser speed. The receiving teams front line will be blocking gunners that won’t be at full speed. Yes, the kicking team will be at a disadvantage because return yardage will increase. Simply getting rid of the kickoff will not make football safe. This option would slow the play, keep onside kicks available and make the kickoff an exciting play again.

  62. Slants over the middle are more-dangerous. You going to ask the NFL to ban those too?

    I’ve not seen stats suggesting that kickoffs are causing a disproportionate number of injuries.

  63. Getoffmylawn! says:
    April 18, 2018 at 11:08 am
    I think the most dangerous play now is, to take a knee before the game. I hear they are trying to fix that too.
    ———-

    Comment of the year.

  64. I want Kickoffs to remain an integral part of the game.
    The NFL is supposed to be the pinnacle of this sport, and
    meant to be played physically and at the highest level of
    competitiveness.

    Some of the most exciting plays come on kick off returns.
    Stop fudging with the rules that are incrementally weakening
    and fundamentally changing the game. The players know
    what they are signing up for, and getting compensated well
    for their participation. The recent rules changes have altered
    the physicality of the sport as it is. Enough is enough.
    Leave it alone.

  65. So in this 4th and 15 scenario, will penalties be assessed exactly the same? An onsides kick is a pretty level competition for all teams. But desperation heaves downfield being rewarded with bogus pass interference are habitually given to some QBs/teams more than others. Basically, this rule would hand Green Bay 1-2 more wins per season

  66. The NFL is now fundamentally changing the game, tweaks are one thing but making so many changes that the game becomes unrecognizable is a recipe for disaster (or an open invite for another league to capitalize by showcasing football we all recognize).

  67. Never let an attorney (that probably has never played a sport in his life) write about football.

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