Kickoff remains in jeopardy of going away

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At 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, or at least within a few minutes thereafter, half the league will assume their respective positions in the new kickoff formation, as eight games begin nearly simultaneously. It could be the last first Sunday of the season that starts this way.

Per a source with knowledge of the internal conversations, the kickoff continues to be at risk of completely going away, even with radical changes aimed at reducing the number of high-impact collisions that happen when two players run at each other, unimpeded and with an opportunity to reach top speed.

Prior changes had successfully reduced the number of returned kickoffs. In 2003, 88.7 percent of all kickoffs were returned, according to NFL data. In 2011, the first year the kickoff point moved from the 30 back to the 35, the percentage of returned kicks fell from 80.1 percent to 53.5 percent. In 2017, the percentage of returned kickoffs had fallen 40.6 percent, well under half of the 15-year high-water mark of 2003.

Recent efforts to reduce the number of kickoffs have backfired, to a certain extent. When the touchback point moved from the 20 to the 25, kickoffs that went into the end zone fell from 2,193 in 2015 to 1,955 in 2016 and 1,878 in 2017. Kickoffs falling short of the end zone increased from 434 to 2015 to 677 in 2016 and 672 in 2017.

So instead of trying to further tinker with kickoff and touchback points to reduce the total number of kickoffs, the NFL finally has made dramatic changes to the formation, with the goal of reducing the number of concussions and, perhaps more importantly, the risk of a catastrophic head or neck injury when two large, fast bodies moving at full speed in opposite directions collide in a cacophony of Newtonian physics.

It’s still not clear how much safer the kickoff needs to be. Packers CEO Mark Murphy publicly has said that a player is five times more likely to suffer a concussion on a kickoff return than on a scrimmage play. Others within the league have cited a four-to-one ratio. No one, however, has been able to articulate an acceptable concussion rate for the revamped kickoff play.

The absence of a goal suggests that there’s no clear plan for what will happen beyond 2018. Maybe the new formation gets another year. Maybe more changes are made. Or maybe the kickoff goes away.

Regardless, as the kickoff as we’ve known it changes significantly in 2018, it could still go away entirely in 2019.

37 responses to “Kickoff remains in jeopardy of going away

  1. can you believe another NFL season is upon us? gonna be a great year aaaaannnnnnnddddddd the Bills were eliminated from the playoffs today…

  2. Oh, NO! Not the kickoff!!!

    Get a grip weaklings.

    0 cares about kickoffs, there are still punts(for all you guys keeping tabs on special teams…).

    Start’em anywhere from the 10-20 and be done with it.

  3. This is one of the most exciting parts of the game and a big part of what fans pay ridiculous prices to experience. Getting rid of the kickoff is like getting rid of all the junk food sold at the game and replacing it with the keto diet.
    Part of what makes sports so popular is the elements of risk flavored with danger that most people don’t get to experience in their everyday safe and hum-drum lives but that professional athletes prepare for and fully understand is part of the job.
    The old men on these committees need to be replaced by younger men who have actually experienced playing the game and are more in touch with marketing to the fans rather than to sponsors and corporate investors.

  4. So CEO Mark Murphy of the packers wants to remove the kick off from the game, he also instrumented the full body weight landing on QB ala Aaron Rodgers. I have an idea Murphy, why don’t you draft men?

  5. The NFL is just conforming to public opinion. We’re the public. We’re the ones out here making all the noise. If you don’t like the new rules, look in the mirror and complain to that guy. We’re the ones crying about everything. If you want football back to where it was, stop crying about everything. If you act like a bunch of babies, they’ll turn football into a baby sport. They’re giving us what we’re asking for.

  6. That’s the point I stop watching any NFL game. Kick returns have always had the potential to be among the most exciting plays in the game.

    Goodell and his cronies while taking away the excitement of big hits and defenders to do their job, now want to take away more. At the same time they’ve added and convoluted so many rules a lot of the games have become flag fests.

    The league is going to find itself failing in a dramatic way if they don’t stop this crap.

  7. Something doesn’t add up ,little by little less actual football is being played ,but the salary cap keeps going up ! We are suckers !

  8. All because Goodell signed an uncapped concussion slush fund for plaintiff attorneys and then took a nap.

  9. After 55 yers of watching the NFL last year was my turning point. Before I put up with rule changes all the insane passing, protecting the QB’s -you can’t hit them high, you can’t hit them low, what is a catch, sideline cameras, bigotry -blacks are better athletes, white quarterbacks are smarter. But then came the kneeling and a lack of a fix.

    I watch no more than one game a week now. Didn’t watch Super Bowl or first game of the season.

    This kick-off rune is just another nail in the coffin. A good game has run it’s course.

  10. They should wear ballet costumes (Tutu’s) the way things are going. It’s getting ridiculous. Bring back the old NFL. Those guys loved football and risked injury because it it.

  11. I just cant trust another stat the NFL provides. After learning they encouraged lobbyist to write fake letters to support tv blackouts, its clear that anything the NFL does is purely in their owners and leagues financial best-interests. They dont care about player and certainly not the fans.

    Mark Cuban is right

  12. In the name of safety they continue to destroy the watchability of the game.Kick off removal is one more nail in their coffin.The NFL thinks it can anything to the game and the fans will keep paying outrageous prices for tickets, PSL’s , vending, parking and TV packaged viewing.They are wrong! People are not going to support flag football, which is where this whole thing is going.
    Add to that: Anthem protests, incessant flags and commercials that destroy game continuity, referees who do not know what a catch is or how to implement a new helmet rule, [that know one understands] and you have fans who have had quite enough of the new NFL !..No Thanks…I will not support this and have been a fan since 1956.

  13. Punt returns are just as dangerous. Ban them too. Quarterbacks are in danger of getting hurt. Ban hits on them too. Oh wait that already happened.

  14. Adopt the ncaa rule if a returner calls for a fair catch on a kickoff, the ball is put on the 25 yd line, this would reduce kickoffs even more without completely eliminating them

  15. More and more fans have become former or less of a fan of the NFL. For the first time in 20 years I didn’t get the Sunday Ticket. I no longer plan my Sundays around the NFL.

  16. flviking says:
    So CEO Mark Murphy of the packers wants to remove the kick off from the game, he also instrumented the full body weight landing on QB ala Aaron Rodgers. I have an idea Murphy, why don’t you draft men?


    Please seek professional help. Your obsessive anger, bitterness, and jealousy towards the Packers just can’t be healthy.

  17. LandOf10000MethLabs says:
    September 9, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Please seek professional help. Your obsessive anger, bitterness, and jealousy towards the Packers just can’t be healthy.
    Says the poster with a bitter jealous screen name.

  18. Why not replace the Kickoff with the punt idea suggested by Greg Schiano or Mike Westhoff.
    You have the ball 4 and 15 at your 35 and punt it. You always can go for it if you need to.

    If kickoffs are too dangerous and they are removed then where doe sit stop?
    Remove punts too, since you can have injuries.
    No punts or kickoffs equals no muffs or run backs and less excitement.

  19. I am just curious about the data and when players get hurt and what are the injuries. I don’t remember that many injuries occurring during the kick off but I will keep my eye on it now.

  20. What the NFL needs fewer of is “Whiny Nancy Boys” who threaten to quit watching football but always show back up the next week. Be a real fan, man up, and grow a pair…gonna quit…just do it!!!

  21. charliecharger says:

    The viewers aren’t going anywhere. The NFL has broken its own revenue records the past two years, and they’ll break another revenue record again this year.

    The revenue is due to the contracts with cable companies and networks. Contracts that were already signed. The NFL is losing viewers and that’s not even debatable.

  22. Easy way to deal with kickoffs. Each team gets to kick or receive at the start of halves.

    Once a team scores a TD and a two point conversion, they automatically get the ball back on the opponent 25 yard line. Any other score will have the other team getting the ball back at the opponent 25 yard line. This will encourage 8 point drives and put a premium on defenses.

    And no team can get a free play from an opposing pre-snap penalty. Erin Rogers will have to earn his offense the old-fashioned way – by actually having to face a defense.

  23. Yeah do that and drive more fans away. Players need to sign a waiver when they come into the NFL that they understand the dangers and cannot sue the league. NFL needs to stop messing with the game trying to make it safe.

  24. Say goodbye to fans, onside kicks, return for touchdowns….better field position. You just can’t replace those nuances of the game.

  25. I don’t think the kickoff is vital to the game. It would survive just fine just placing the ball on the 25 yard line. It would ease the load on rosters for special teams players. I hold my breath on kickoffs anyway, waiting for the inevitable injury.

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