Many people are going bananas over the new NFL kickoff rules. People think the new rules are designed to eventually eliminate kickoffs, but they will actually enhance them and make them exciting again.
In the NFL, the game is supposed to be comprised of three phases: offense, defense and special teams. There’s one problem. Special teams isn’t all that special. It’s become mostly fair catches touchbacks and field goals. A lot of blah. Now, new rules can not only make the play safer, but create some actual design from coaches and make the kickoff exciting again.
In their first effort to make the kickoff safer, the NFL moved the kickoff up to the 35-yard line to increase the number of touchbacks, but that didn’t work, because the concussion rate is still higher on kickoffs than plays from the field. So the NFL had to do something.
While the league did make it safer by limiting returns— only 40.6 percent of all kickoffs were returned in 2017 — the new rules didn’t make the play safer in comparison to the rest of plays. In addition to that, they made kick returners irrelevant.
The NFL is a violent game, and the league can’t prevent all injuries, but to make the game safer while making it more exciting is something it should attempt to do, and that’s what it’s done. Eliminating the blocking wedge completely and the running start for the kickoff team and instituting a no contact zone for 15 yards adds intrigue to the kickoff. No longer should a kickoff be an automatic touchback.
Teams should now set up blocking schemes and pursuit schemes for the kickoff. Also, instead of automatically bombing it through the end zone, you should see teams attack more by leaving kickoffs short enough to be returned.
So, in essence they’ve killed two birds with one stone. They’ve made kickoffs safer by slowing down the collisions, and they’ve made them a more viable play for strategy.
Some have said this is just one more step to eliminating kickoffs from the game and “taking the foot out of football.” Quite the contrary, it’s putting the foot back in football.