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Rand: Is the NFL really ready to kick out kickoffs?

  • December 6, 2012 - 8:44 PM
The NFL, like all major pro leagues, tinkers with rules to reflect new trends or new technology. Utilizing instant replay, protecting the quarterback -- even changing overtime to make it more fair -- are good examples of changes many of us can accept as being "for the good of the game." ¶ Before the 2011 season, the league moved kickoffs from the 30 to the 35-yard line, with the idea that fewer kickoff returns would mean a decrease in injuries on those often violent and fast-moving plays. It was a medium-sized move with a decent-sized impact, but it did not fundamentally change the game. It did not stop people in their tracks -- unlike the out-of-left-field idea that has emerged recently and apparently has the ear of Commissioner Roger Goodell.

SI.com, piggybacking off an interview Goodell did with Time Magazine, notes that the commish is mulling the merits of a completely new way of handling special teams. The proposal -- reportedly from Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano -- would eliminate kickoffs after scoring plays. That's not the truly odd part. Here's where it gets really weird:

Instead of a kickoff, the ball would be placed at the scoring team's 30 yard line. That team would have the option of trying to run an offensive play -- gaining 15 yards or more would give them a first down and allow them to keep the ball, while anything less would give the ball to the other team -- or punting the ball away.

Seriously. We are treating this as fact because it was reported by a very reputable outlet. But there's no way it can happen, right?

Even if there was a time when football didn't include forward passes -- we're talking decades ago, legally, and not the Vikings' game plan Sunday vs. Green Bay -- it's hard to conceive of football, as popular as it is now, changing such a fundamental part of itself in exchange for something that seems like a gimmick.

Sure, an on-side kick is a strange play -- and maybe even a play with roughly the same "success" rate as converting what would be essentially a 4th-and-15 play into a first down. But it's just ... too ... bizarre to think of football without kickoffs. It's a dangerous, violent sport. Kickoffs are a part of that. At some point, as long as football as we know it exists, we need to accept that instead of considering wacky ways to minimize it.

MICHAEL RAND

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