Kickoff formation rule now prohibits going out of bounds without being contacted

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The NFL’s overhaul of the kickoff, aimed either at saving it or setting the stage for its inevitable demise, includes a tweak that previously hasn’t gotten much/any emphasis: Players on the kicking team no longer will be permitted to voluntarily go out of bounds to avoid being blocked.

The penalty applies when the player steps on or beyond the boundary without being contacted, and it results in a five-yard penalty.

This tweak represents another example of the league’s effort to minimize high-speed collisions. If players can’t run out of bounds to avoid being blocked, they become less likely to gain a full head of steam before striking a player on the receiving team. The stated goal is to reduce concussions; the unspoken objective is to avoid catastrophic neck injuries that occur when players running directly at each other dip their helmets to brace for impact.

Although this twist to the rules will contribute to the effort to keep players from hitting each other while moving at top speed, it also will tend to set the stage for more returns, making it easier to ensure that would-be tacklers are blocked and not running free toward the player who is preparing to field the kickoff. More returns could lead to more concussions, which could lead to the elimination of the kickoff.

13 responses to “Kickoff formation rule now prohibits going out of bounds without being contacted

  1. “More returns could lead to more concussions, which could lead to the elimination of the kickoff.”
    ==================================

    No. The point of the new rules is too have players run side by side blocking like a punt return. The majority of concussions from kickoffs were from head-on collisions.

  2. Doesn’t it make sense that allowing a player the freedom to navigate out of bounds on a kickoff … would actually reduce the contact on the play?

  3. Doesn’t it make sense that allowing a player the freedom to navigate out of bounds on a kickoff … would actually reduce the contact on the play?
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    They aren’t worried about the contact from an initial block at 10-20 yards down the field, they’re worried about the contact at 40-60 yards down the field. Typically its the gunners that run out of bounds, if you keep them in bounds its less likely they can reach top speed, thus less force on contact.

  4. I’m surprised this wasn’t already a rule. The sidelines are there for a reason. If a receiver voluntarily steps out of bounds, he can’t be the first player to touch the ball after it is thrown. Also, if somebody on the punting team steps out, aren’t the ineligible or something?

  5. Next year:

    Rule 17(c)1 states: All players on the kickoff team must do jumping jacks and count to 3-Mississippi before attempting to tackle the returner.

  6. This all boggles my mind. I’d never want to see a player seriously injured but they sign up to play the game for millions. Boxing is worse. Coal miners who are actually at risk every day of their life of being trapped and dying don’t even get paid millions. They all know the risk. They CHOOSE to take it. Are compensated more than any other risky job in America to play a game. I get trying to make it safer but I don’t understand making it just stupid.

  7. The field of play is 160′ x 360′ including the end zone. Players leaving the field of their own volition shouldn’t be allowed back on the field at all until the play is over. A 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty would be a better incentive to abide by the rules than a five yard procedural penalty.

  8. you will take that 5 yard penalty everytime if it equals tackling a returner inside the 20…anything to keep the offense from starting on the 25

  9. Leave the rule and quit changing it. Unfortunately there are injuries on just about every play. They are being paid millions, let them pay.

    If they are going to penalize players for going out of bound then Make it 15 yards if they want to stop it. They’ll eagerly take the 5 yards to get an unfair advantage.

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