The NFL isn’t done tinkering with kickoffs.
NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent told Judy Battista of NFL Media that after two days of meetings at the league office, a kickoff proposal will likely be brought to the owners at the May meeting. Vincent believes a modification to kickoff rules is likely to be implemented this season.
The NFL has already modified the kickoff by moving it up five yards from the 30 to the 35, moving touchbacks up five yards from the 20 to the 25, and preventing players on the kicking team from getting more than five yards of a running start before the kick.
What more modifications can be made? The NCAA has changed its kickoff rule to allow the receiving team to fair catch anywhere inside the 25-yard line and get the ball at the 25. The NFL could adopt that rule as well.
Vincent said the NFL is not considering eliminating the kickoff. But Vincent has previously said that is, indeed, on the table. And ultimately, it will be the NFL’s owners who decide whether to keep or eliminate the kickoff. If three-fourths of the NFL’s owners want to get rid of it, then it’s gone.
What the NFL still needs to do is come up with a replacement for the onside kick. Football needs a way for teams trailing by more than one possession to get the ball back late in the game, and right now, that way is the onside kick. Once the NFL figures out another way, the kickoff is likely to go away.