Opposition increases to new fair catch rule

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The next evolution in the kickoff rule was supposed to be the adoption of the NCAA-style rule that results in a fair catch inside the 25 being placed at the 25. That apparently won’t be happening.

As recently explained by Albert Breer of SI.com, special-teams players and coaches have accelerated the opposition to the rule.

The proposal was passed unanimously by the Competition Committee in March. The issue was tabled from March to May, an acknowledgement that the vote would have failed if it had happened at the annual meeting in Arizona.

Based on Breer’s report, it sounds as if it’s even more likely to fail now.

The issue, according to Breer, was discussed last week during a regularly-scheduled call among the league’s special-teams coordinators. They decided to recruit special-teams players to participate in active opposition against the rule.

One concern with the rule is that it will spark more squib kicks inside the 25, which couldn’t be fair caught and would have to be returned. That could create more, not less, chaos on special teams.

The proposed change comes from an overriding desire to make the most dangerous play in the game, as the league has called it, more safe. It’s been a focal point for the past decade or so, with gradual changes aimed at making the play safer.

It started with efforts to spark fewer returns. Several years ago, a more comprehensive change to the rules was devised to reduce the full-speed nature of the impacts during kick returns.

One question that emerged in the aftermath of the March meetings was whether playing surface has a role in the question of injuries during kickoff returns.

If switching to grass could make the play safer, it’s another reason to switch to grass. But the NFL has no desire to do it, because it would be expensive to do so.

So in lieu of spending a little extra money to make the game safer in all phases, the NFL would rather make dramatic changes to one of the most important aspects of special teams.

33 responses to “Opposition increases to new fair catch rule

  1. There will always be a most dangerous play.
    Just switch to Sarcastaball and be done with.

  2. Removing special teams is just ridiculous. It’s a violent game. All phases and plays bring a level of danger. And, for the record, guys who’ve been seriously injured or paralyzed in recent years were not playing special teams. Ask Alex Smith, Joe Theisman, Dennis Byrd, Mike Utley, etc.

  3. Despite the unbelievable wealth of the NFL and its owners, when it comes to a choice between player safety and money (or fans in the stands and money, for that matter) – money always wins.

  4. Let’s bring up some hypotheticals about what might make a kickoff return safer, then immediately say the greedy owners won’t do it! Its a hypothetical and has no basis for the potential of a rule change! Pinhead!

  5. joexfed says:
    May 20, 2023 at 8:50 pm
    Despite the unbelievable wealth of the NFL and its owners, when it comes to a choice between player safety and money (or fans in the stands and money, for that matter) – money always wins.

    Of course money never enters into any of YOUR decisions, does it? seems to me money always wins in every situation regardless of how much you have or don’t have.

    It’s a classical risk/reward for the players. They gamble their presernt and/or future health against a few years of risk that will set them up for not only the rest of their lives, but possibly for 3 or 4 future generations of their family. I have yet seen any player chosen to play int he NFL turn down the opportunity for safety reasons. Nor do I expect to see it in the future.

    NO ONE with the sense of an amoeba would. The rewards are just too immense.

  6. Here we go with the grass again. It has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

  7. Went to watch arena football tonight, first time. Enjoyed it. Tickets were affordable, sat close to the field and a lot of hard hitting action. Stop trying to fix everything NFL. My goodness of course there is dangers to playing football but that’s why we watch it and you get paid crazy money to play it.

  8. I was at a dog game between Cleveland and Oakland in 2003 in Oakland and I got tickets on the Cleveland 25 front row so cheap because both teams were atrocious. Being that close to the field really gives you a good look at the game and I was taken aback at how violent the kickoffs and punts are. I also loved it and do not want it to go anywhere.

  9. So if your punter does a great job and forces a fair catch at the 10, it would get moved to the 25. So much for the art of punting.

  10. The NFL needs to steal from the XFL here and do that on kickoffs. It’s more safe and less dangerous as they say

  11. Just start every possession at 25. If goal is to get rid of kickoffs, then get rid of kickoffs. None of the half measures. Not saying they should, but if that’s the goal just do it.

  12. So if your punter does a great job and forces a fair catch at the 10, it would get moved to the 25. So much for the art of punting.

    Except they are talking about kickoffs

  13. STOP with this nonsense! It’s part of the game that made it the best sport in the world!!

  14. The XFL kickoff actually made a lot more sense to help player safety and keep special teams in-tact. For those that didn’t watch (I am sure many), the kicker kicked off at the same spot, the other 10 players of the kicking team lined up 5 yds away from the returning team. Only the kicker abd return man could move, and no one could move until the ball was touched by the returner. It elminiated the violent full speed crashes (that regardless if people are getting life ending injurues or not, it is still statistically a very high injury play), and it kept the return in play and was equally exciting.

    I don’t love too many changes to football, but this doesn’t compromise the nature of the game or the safety of the players. It makes too much sense.

  15. A kick return for a TD is the most exciting play in the game. Player safety has to matter so changing rules like the wedge makes sense but the ultimate objective should include ensuring the kick return game remains viable.

  16. The NFL would love to completely get rid of kickoffs completely. But, they allow for television commercials before and after the play, doubling advertising revenue.

  17. The fair catch was coupled with a move of the kickoff spot from the 35 back to 25. I am all for that as touchbacks are BORING.

  18. I kinda like the strategy of kick off squib kicks… but I think they need to find a slightly better manner to implement the result. There should be benefit for the kicking team pulling off a successful pooch kick, and yet again not a severe penalty for the receiving team. Don’t neuter the strategy of the play itself. Putting the ball at the 25 is like a penalty for the kicking team. Put the ball at the 20 or wherever it was fair caught inside the 25, receiving teams choice.

  19. Get rid of field goals for crying out loud. Too often the guy on the team who isn’t really a football player decides the damn game. Force teams to win it through blood, sweat, and tears. And while you’re at it, you want to really make it the grind-out sport it’s meant to be? Put a limit on the number of passes a team can make per game. Let’s say 25–or at the most 30. That’ll take a bit of the shine off the prima donna quarterbacks and put respect back on the running back position. There, all better now.

  20. Why not give receiving team option to take the ball at the 25? Unless there is less than 5 minutes in the 4th quarter. This way they can choose to try to get a TD return but can’t stop a team who needs the ball to onside kick. If they are that against the kickoff then do it that way. Or a better idea is to leave it the hell alone.

  21. Is it true that by 2030 all players will be electric? Then we won’t have injuries, just repairs like NASCAR.

  22. Player safety matters until it doesn’t when they wanna add games and make teams play multiple Thursday night games and travel Europe and back.

  23. Would extend some kickers’ careers considering some of them start losing the touchback distance before the accuracy and FG distance becomes tpo big of a deal.

  24. “AmericanHandEgg”

    Seems that the Andrew Lucks & Nasir Adderlys & Luke Kuechlys of the NFL retired early to preserve their health and/or because of safety/injury concerns.

    Most would not consider them amoebas…

  25. If you are going to onside kick, you have to recover within 20-30 yards. If a squib goes beyond that and the receiving team doesn’t attempt to field the ball, they get it where it stops or at the 25 (if ball goes inside the 25). If the receiving team does field the ball and fumbles, live ball. If its all about safety, seems like a fairly easy fix

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