The Rock Report

NFL Rules Changes On Kickoffs Open Pandora's Box....

I have never seen a league adapt to outside pressures so much than the current day NFL.  For example the famous "tuck rule" established after the 2002 AFC Championship Game, or just this past off season when the new OT rules came into affect following an overtime loss to Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings.  The biggest issue outside the current day NFL lockout is the increasing amount of concern about concussions in the sport of football.  
Remember this past season where the NFL increased punishment for what was once termed "devastating hits"?
While to longtime football fans and players these new regulations may seem like the NFL is going "soft" on the simple physical nature of the game, the NFL Competition Committee is not stopping there.  The NFL is proposing new changes to the game which would affect an entire phase of a team's offensive game.
Could it be the NFL Competition Committee fears the extinction of their game so much that the special teams phase of the game could be abolished?


Here are the proposed rule changes by the NFL Competition Committee

  • Kickoffs would be from the 35 yard line (currently the 30 yard line)
  • Touchbacks would be moved to the 25 yard line (currently the 20 yard line)
  • No wedges allowed on kickoff returns (currently two man wedge allowed)
What this means is with the decrease in amount of kickoff returns while the number of touchbacks will surely increase.  Reading Brad Biggs in yesterday's Chicago Tribune, he found that these rules make no sense because of the number of touchbacks is already on the rise.
(per Brad Biggs)
"There were 416 touchbacks around the league from a total of 2,539 kickoffs (16.38 percent). What would the percentage become if teams were kicking off from the 35? It easily could double. Just recall the ten kickoffs the Bears' returners ran out of the end zone last season. Four were five yards deep or more and nine of the ten were three yards deep or more. Those likely will be touchbacks every time under the new guidelines."
The proposed regulations would basically give the advantage to the kicker and take away the threat of players like Devin Hester, Josh Cribbs, and DeSean Jackson.  Players that get paid millions of dollars simply because they are the most dangerous at returning kickoffs and getting great field position for their teams.  These new rules would eliminate the threat by supplying teams with great field position anyway.  By decreasing the surface area the kicker has to kick to, you are putting the returning team at a disadvantage when the playing field is already as fair as it ever has been.   
Why propose these rules?  The fear of their own game.
Rick McKay (NFL Competition Committee Chairman)
"This is a rule 100 percent based on player safety," Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons, said while referring to the kickoff proposal. "We've seen higher rates of injuries than we are comfortable with, and we're trying to remedy it."
While I understand that the threat of concussion is very real especially when it comes to professional sports (especially in football and hockey), when do we start to realize what path we are starting to march on?

I have always been of the opinion that when you sign up to play football, you know there is a possibility you can get hurt.  The higher you go in professional football, the more likely you will get hurt because the speed gets faster and your competition gets bigger and stronger.  Hence why the average career of a NFL player is 3.5 years because of how brutal the sport is to the human body and mind.   
I think the NFL increasing fines and suspensions for devastating hits is not a method of affecting the game.  That was simply a method of raising awareness without affecting the game's physical style of play.  In fact many around the league on the defensive side of the ball were quoted that they will continue to play the game they have played all their life the same way.  It was a mental message rather than a physical change to the way the game is played.
These proposed rule changes are designed to affect the way the game is played by practically eliminating a phase of offense from the game itself.  Several teams (Chicago Bears included) have invested heavily in this phase of the game, and to change the rules out of fear of injury is asinine.  Some consider the kickoff return the most exciting play in the NFL, including Bears head coach Lovie Smith.
"I can't believe we're even talking about that," Smith said Tuesday during a breakfast with the media at the NFL meetings. "It's the most exciting play in the game. We're totally against the rule. We don't even get into the conversation. How do we get to this point?"
The NFL Competition Committee is afraid to stand by its players and their own game.  Football by nature is a very physical sport on all sides of the ball, yet if these proposed rule changes pass where does it stop?   
Could we be looking at a league where as soon as the ball carrier is hit, even if he breaks the tackle he is still down?  Could we honestly be talking about a league where the quarterback cannot be taken to the ground from his blind side because of the risk of a devastating hit?   
NFL Hall Of Famer Troy Aikman said it best:
"At some point I think players have to understand that there are certain risks that are involved, and if you decide that you want to go out and play football, then you've got to understand that part of that means you're going to break some bones and you may have some head injuries. But if you try to eliminate all of those things, then we're no longer playing football."
These proposed rule changes would do exactly what Aikman is saying.  These changes would directly affect how the game is played when there is nothing wrong with that phase of the game to begin with.
The NFL needs to realize that the product they put out is a physically violent game where people can get hurt.  The players need to take it on themselves to understand that they are human although most of their body is covered in armor.  With all the unrest involved in the ongoing NFL lockout, this is the perfect time for the NFL to stand by their product and their players instead of making rule changes to satisfy outside sources who probably have nothing to do with the game itself.
Until that day arrives, football as we know it today will continue down a path to eliminating itself.
John "Rock" Mamola is the Associate Producer of The Mully And Hanley Morning Show and Host of The Rock Report on WSCR 670AM The Score
You can follow Rock at


UPDATE:   per Chris Mortensen Tweet (@mortreport) - Kickoff proposal passes with amendments kickoffs from 35 and touchbacks being placed at 20 (the norm) and not the 25



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