NFL Considers Replacing Kickoff
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell revealed Thursday (December 6) that the league's competition committee is considering the elimination of the kickoff.
The NFL previously moved the kickoff from the 30- to 35-yard line to cut down on violent collisions. Now, they want to replace it altogether.
According to ESPN.com, Goodell and Rich McKay, the head of the league's competition committee, have discussed an idea in which a team, instead of kicking off, would get the ball at its own 30-yard line in a fourth-and-15 situation. The team then would punt the ball away or, to replace an onside kick, could go for it and, if it failed to get a first down, the opposing squad would start with great field position.
"The fact is, it's a much different end of the play," Goodell said during the meeting, according to Time.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano brought up the idea. He was the coach at Rutgers in 2010 when Eric LeGrand was paralyzed on a kickoff, so he's seen first-hand how the play can affect the safety of players. LeGrand broke two vertebrae and suffered a serious spinal cord injury in October 2010 during a kickoff return against Army.
Schiano told ESPN The Magazine in September that he believed kickoffs eventually would be eliminated from pro football.
"I believe that day will come," he said. "Unfortunately, it will probably take more players being seriously hurt. But I think there's another way to do this."
Last season, the NFL changed the kickoff, moving it from the 30-yard line to the 35 and required the coverage unit to start within 5 yards of the ball, closing the distance between the teams.
So far, the change had its desired effects. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 16.4 percent of kickoffs led to touchbacks in 2010; last year it was 43.5 percent. The NFL found that players suffered 40 percent fewer concussions on kickoffs in 2011.