After medical data showed concussions were five times more likely to happen on kickoffs than any other play in 2017, the NFL adopted a series of new rules aimed at making them safer that gained approval for the 2018 season.
Up for debate: If the NFL has to keep changing the kickoff rules, is it time to just scrap them completely?
First take: Michael Rand
Let me just say that it is an honor and a privilege to … wait for it … wait for it … kick off this discussion.
(Waits for laughter to die down.)
OK, but seriously, I think these new kickoff rules deserve a chance. Coverage teams no longer get a running start, two-man wedge blocks are no longer legal and other tweaks to the rules could have a big impact on the safety of the play.
And if the play can become comparatively safe to other NFL plays, there’s no need to scrap it. Kickoffs are exciting and strategic. They can be game-changing. Simply giving a team the ball on the 25 to start a possession after a score would be boring.
Chris Hine: Eliminating the kickoff might be boring, but it would make football safer. Would you really miss the kickoff as a viewer, especially when a game goes back to commercial after a kickoff?
Just get rid of it. Even with the changes, you’re still going to have coverage teams running at full speed charging as hard as they can into blockers. You can keep the kickoff for end-of-half and end-of-game situations, but if it means there are fewer concussions in the game, just ditch it.
Rand: Wait, so you just want occasional kickoffs? How do they decide when to do a kickoff and when not to?
That’s part of the problem right there. Are there no longer onside kicks in this scenario and, if there are onside kicks, does a team have to declare its intention to try an onside kick?
Then again, the NFL is getting pretty good at making rules that only spawn more questions. This would be in keeping with the spirit of the week.
Hine: Dealing with those questions is worth the price of preventing more head injuries. I would ban kickoffs except from the last five minutes of the first half and the game. If a team wants to try an onside kick at any point, it can declare its intention to try, just like it does to go for one or two on an extra point.
Speaking of which — if you go for one, the opposing team gets the ball at the 30-yard line on the next drive. If you go for two, your opponent starts at the 20.
If it meant putting the opponent deeper in its own field, do you think more teams might go for two? That would certainly be exciting.
Rand: I’m all for fewer head injuries. Let’s see if the new rules can do that. As for all your proposals, you’re making my head hurt! Keep it simple.
Final word: Chris Hine
I’ll give the new rules a chance, but I’m skeptical. It just seems like all these changes over the past few years are just leading up to the inevitable — the NFL getting eliminating kickoffs, which it should.
More Rand: startribune.com/RandBall
More Hine: startribune.com/NorthScore