As the NFL continues to discuss ways to change the kickoff and reduce the number of collisions that take place on it, one idea has been bandied about from time to time that would give the kickoff team a strong incentive to kick it deep: Give the kicking team one point if a kickoff goes through the uprights.
The Ravens have been the team most in favor of the rule, for a simple reason: Ravens kicker Justin Tucker has a strong leg and would have a good chance of putting a kickoff through the uprights.
Is it realistic? Probably not. The idea has never even reached the point of being voted upon at a league meeting, let alone adopted. But since the idea came up again this week at the Ravens’ Organized Team Activities, we’ll repeat what we’ve said before about why the rule could make sense:
It’s good for player safety. When the NFL moved the touchback to the 25-yard line, the goal was to reduce kickoff returns. But that rule hasn’t made much of a difference because some teams now kick high and short in an effort to avoid touchbacks. The Ravens’ proposal would certainly reduce the number of kickoff returns: Teams would have a strong incentive for their kicker to kick it as deep as possible to try to get that bonus point, and when those kickoffs fell short of the goal posts, the returners would usually stay in the end zone because they’d be backed up near the end line.
It’s exciting for late-game strategy. Under current rules, we’ve grown accustomed to a seven-point lead meaning a touchdown and extra point can tie, an eight-point lead meaning a touchdown and two-point conversion can tie, and a nine-point lead meaning a two-possession game. This would change things. Now you could trail by seven and take the lead with a touchdown, extra point and kickoff point. Or trail by eight and take the lead with a touchdown, two-point conversion and kickoff point. And a nine-point game would be particularly exciting: You score a touchdown late in the game down by nine. Do you go for two and try to tie the game with a kickoff point? Or do you kick the extra point and try to win the game with an onside kick followed by a field goal?
It could feature an exception to the goaltending rule. The NFL currently has a rule against goaltending on field goals and extra points: A player who jumps up and touches a ball as it is about to go through the goal posts in an attempt to block a field goal is flagged for goaltending, a 15-yard penalty. But that rule shouldn’t apply to kickoff points, because it would be great to reward a kickoff returner who’s athletic enough to leap up and swat away a kick that’s 10 or 11 feet in the air. And in a late-game situation where one point is the difference in the game, a team could put in its best goaltender to try to block a kickoff point.
Don’t hold your breath for a rule like this ever being adopted. But it would make Tucker an even more valuable player.