Are proposed changes to NFL kickoffs good or bad?

March 18, 2011

Big picture: smart move

Steve Svekis

Sun Sentinel

Over the course of a single game, the rules change will spare players a half-dozen or so of the most violent, collision-filled sequences that occur in the NFL, as it will be a shock if the vast majority of kickers can't routinely get the ball deep into the end zone.

So, it is a prudent move as evidence continues to pour in regarding the grievous post-career lives to which so many of these crippled men are relegated.

Strategically, coaches should be more than happy to let a team take the ball at the 25 as opposed to having a Devin Hester get a chance to drastically affect the outcome.

As kickoff returns evaporate, however, so will one of the most electric moments in a game. This is a smart big-picture move though.

ssvekis@tribune.com

This is going too far

Dan Pompei

Chicago Tribune

I'm all for increasing player safety, but taking the teeth out of the kickoff game is going too far.

The proposed changes would give advantages to teams that aren't very good at kickoffs, returning kickoffs and covering kicks, and would subsequently penalize the teams that are strong in those areas.

This is a rule change that would affect the competitive balance in the league. The kickoff return can be one of the most exciting plays in the game, and this rule would change that.

Risk of injury is an unavoidable part of the game. With these changes, the NFL product might be more safe but less compelling. Is it really a better league if it is diminishing the opportunities of stars like Devin Hester, Brad Smith and Leon Washington? I think not.

dpompei@tribune.com

Fewer thrills, injuries

Ken Murray

Baltimore Sun

In the interest of making kickoffs a little less dangerous, the changes the competition committee propose are good. Players will still get dinged — some seriously. It will still be an exciting play.

But what it really means to me is there will be more touchbacks in 2011 — if there is a 2011 for the NFL — and perhaps fewer game-changing, long returns.

Yes, it means the opposing team gets the ball 5 yards closer on touchbacks than last year. But special teams coaches will take that over allowing kick returns of 30, 40 or more yards. Having no one other than the kicker within 5 yards of the ball means a fraction less speed running down the field, and that fraction could make a difference.

And no one will shed a tear for the outlawed wedge. It was about time.

kmurray@tribune.com

It's bad … and good

Sam Farmer

Los Angeles Times

If the new kickoff rules pass, the game would be affected in a big way.

Moving the ball up 5 yards could essentially take one of the most exciting plays, the kickoff return, out of football.

Teams such as the Bears and Seahawks with great returners can't be too excited by this, and it's not good news either for core special-teamers who set themselves apart with the way they cover kicks. If the changes were to be voted in, that would be welcome news for older kickers, guys like Ryan Longwell and Adam Vinatieri, who don't have great kickoff legs.

Of course, the reason for the proposed change is to reduce the number of injuries on a play that can be extremely dangerous, so the benefit of that can't be overlooked.

sfarmer@tribune.com

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