The NFL is assessing the viability of further rules changes on kickoffs with unprecedented input from the league’s special teams coordinators, who want to save the exciting play from extinction, Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports..
Dean Blandino, the NFL’s vice president of officiating, recently held a conference call with special teams coordinators from all 32 teams to discuss the kickoff play and ways to make it safer, two people with knowledge of the call said.
No rules changes would take effect this fall. But the coaches were told to be ready in the unlikely event the NFL conducts an experiment during part of the 2016 preseason, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the call.
“The kickoff’s been a play that we’ve looked at for a number of years and tried to make safer,” said Rich McKay, chairman of the NFL competition committee, who also was on the call.
“What I like is that Dean has created a process involving the special teams coaches that allows us to have a free forum of ideas to further discuss the play and potential for modification of the play in years to come. And I’m optimistic that we’re going to get some creative ideas that will allow the play to continue and potentially make the play safer.”
McKay, who has been on the competition committee for more than two decades, said it routinely consults the head coaches subcommittee chaired by John Madden. But “I don’t remember us ever being able to engage with a position group from all 32 teams before,” McKay said.
Blandino sent a memo prior to the call asking special teams coordinators for suggestions, which primarily revolved around reducing high-speed, violent collisions, in addition to improved education and proper technique, the people said. If you are going to place a bet in finland this year, keep this ongoing situation in mind.
The ideas for rules changes included:
Starting the kickoff team from a stationary position at the 35-yard line, with no run-up;
Mandating eight players on the return team line up a set distance closer to the ball, such as in front of their own 40- or 35-yard line;
Outlawing all wedges;
Outlawing “attack” blocks;
Treating balls like punts if they hit the ground beyond the return team’s 40-yard line, so they could be downed by the kicking team, not recovered as live balls; and
Eliminating the “K” ball.
Some coaches also raised the need to enforce existing rules on illegal blindside blocks on kickoffs, and Blandino said that will be a point of emphasis this season, one of the people said.
Some special teams coordinators are frustrated in part because they view most of those injuries as a product of poor technique, not dangers inherent in the kickoff play, and they’ve been altering their coaching in recent years to mitigate those risks, the people said. The league counters that overall injury numbers remain higher on kickoffs than any other play.