Born out of the constant discussion to make the NFL safer and prevent some of the dreaded concussions that have obviously become one of the league’s top topics, there has been talk about changing the kickoff rule again — this time, taking kickoffs out of the game altogether.
Certainly, that would be a drastic measure. The idea this time comes from first-year Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano. Schiano, who watched one of his Rutgers players, Eric LeGrand, become paralyzed when he was hurt on a kickoff play, devised this idea: After Team A scores, instead of a kickoff, Team A would then have the ball on its own 30-yard line (just like a kickoff now) but would be handed, essentially, a 4th-and-15 play. The team could either punt from there or go for it (which replaces the possibility of an onside kick). Fail to gain a first down would give Team B the ball wherever it ended up, just as if it had been a normal fourth down situation.
Schiano first floated the idea back in 2011 when he was still at Rutgers. It has come up again, and now NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has taken notice. Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the NFL’s competition committee (as is Ken Whisenhunt), said he thinks the kickoff situation will be addressed the next time the committee meets in the offseason.
There is a lot to consider with this, and changing the kickoff doesn’t necessarily mean going with Schiano’s drastic move. The league has talked often about how the most recent kickoff changes — moving the ball up, in particular, and other tweaks — have changed kickoff returns. Injuries are down, but so are electrifying returns. Touchbacks are way up.
Instituting the “Schiano rule” would impact the rosters. Punters would become more important. Kickers a little less so, now needed to just kick field goals and extra points (although some teams, who have punters kicking off, already have this situation). If you are a return man who can’t handle catching a punt in traffic, your chances of making it to the NFL decrease (you wonder what would have happened to a rookie seventh-round pick named LaRod Stephens-Howling if the current kickoff rules had been in place in 2009.) Patrick Peterson would get more chances to take one back, that’s for sure.
From a pure entertainment standpoint, such a new rule would certainly create an interesting wrinkle, not to mention making every post-scoring play look like a safety just happened. It seems a little too drastic to me. But at this point, given the way the league is trying to get safer, the game is clearly evolving, and that’s not going to stop.
Tags: competition committee, Greg Schiano, Jeff Fisher, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Patrick Peterson, Roger Goodell, rules
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Maneuvering through a short week is difficult. The flip side, of course, will be Friday, and Saturday and Sunday and the extra days off. That could really benefit the Cards as banged up as they have been.
But they have to get through Thursday first. And truthfully, those benefits would feel a little bit better with a victory in St. Louis.
“(A short week) is pretty tough, but I think everyone in this locker room feels the same way – we’ve put together four decent games and are in position to be 4-0 and have an opportunity to play on national TV in front of the masses,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “I think guys are relishing the opportunity.”
I do get the sense that the vibe is better for this Thursday game than it was back in 2008, for the Thanksgiving game in Philly. Back then, it didn’t feel like anyone was relishing anything. It showed on the field. This team is in a different place. We’ll see how it plays out on the turf.
– Andre Roberts has four touchdown catches – that’s the most of any receiver in the NFL right now. He’s a long way from training camp of 2011, when every “name” receiver that popped up as available quickly was linked to the Cardinals. Roberts has become a real weapon – he has been since midseason last year – but as usual, downplays his situation.
I asked him if he thought he had crossed some kind of threshold as a player. “I don’t know if it is a threshold,” Roberts said. “I just try to make the best out of my opportunities. When it comes my way, I want to make the most of it.”
– The steady play of Kevin Kolb and the clutch play late in the Miami game obviously plays well with teammates. But it’s also about a settling of the position. That’s all the rest of the Cards ever wanted was to find a player who was effective. They don’t care if it is Kolb or John Skelton.
“I’m pleased it’s not become an ordeal in the locker room,” center Lyle Sendlein said.
– It will be interesting to see who is playing cornerback across from Patrick Peterson. Will Greg Toler stay there after finishing the game at the spot? Does William Gay, who struggled, go back? If Toler gets more time, given that Gay stayed at nickel last game when that happened, it looks like rookie Jamell Fleming will be the one losing defensive snaps. Toler was the starter last year before he got hurt. I’m sure he’d like to regain that spot for good.
– The Rams are not the same team they were. They barely lost to the Lions and had they won that game, Jeff Fisher’s bunch would be 3-1. “This team is not sitting here with aspirations of going to the Super Bowl, because I think those things are unrealistic at this time of the year,” Fisher said. “Realistic goals are improving, accepting the next challenge, and doing whatever it takes to try to win the next game.” It’d be a big feather in the cap to beat division rivals Seattle and Arizona in back-to-back home games. The Cards will be tested to make sure that doesn’t happen.
– As I mentioned before, the Cardinals could make some headway with their struggling running game. They need to. Ryan Williams figures to get more carries. St. Louis has always been a place where Cards’ runners can get healthy, stats-wise.
– Speaking of guys who pop in St. Louis, Adrian Wilson is one. Against the Rams, he has six career interceptions and 7½ career sacks. Plus he is coming off a strong game, even if his diving interception (below) was eventually eliminated. Wilson thought the Rams, in 2001, might draft him with multiple high picks. They didn’t. He remembers.
Bring on Thursday night.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Andre Roberts, Greg Toler, Jamell Fleming, Jeff Fisher, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Lyle Sendlein, Rams, Ryan Williams, William Gay
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The Rams, whom the Cardinals face Thursday night, are already improved under new coach Jeff Fisher. That was probably inevitable. Fisher came into St. Louis liking the owner and liking the fact the team already had a franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford. The rest, he could make work, and he has his team at 2-2 — already equaling or surpassing the team’s win total in three of the previous four seasons, including last year’s 2-14 record.
“Clearly the past speaks for itself,” Fisher said in a conference call Tuesday morning. “It’s been a difficult few years. What you do, you move forward and let that go. From the time we started the offseason program to date, guys have a different type of expectation. They know you can’t fix this thing overnight. But they know if you work hard, study hard, you have a chance in every game.”
Fisher, indirectly, has helped the Cardinals too. It made sure Ray Horton remained in Arizona as defensive coordinator.
Fisher was the guy the Rams seemed to have targeted from the outset when St. Louis was looking for a coach this past offseason. He had a chance to go to Miami too, but the Rams waited for him to make a decision. Yet they did interview Horton for their head coaching job. The franchise did need to talk to a minority candidate to fulfill the Rooney Rule, and until Fisher made a choice, that may have been what Horton was. But there is little question Horton did and will draw interest as a head coaching candidate going forward if his defense keeps playing like it has.
Horton has said before he would like to be a head coach someday, although he wants to win a Super Bowl as a coordinator and said back in February he wasn’t in any particular hurry to leave for another gig. What would have happened if Fisher had picked the Dolphins? It’s interesting to ponder. (What would have Sunday’s game been like — anything like it turned out to be?) The Rams could have made a lot different for the Cards. Steve Keim, the Cards’ VP of player personnel, was considered for St. Louis’ vacant general manager’s job too.
Tags: Jeff Fisher, Rams, Ray Horton
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The punishments for the New Orleans Saints — at least most of them, since the player punishments are still TBD — came down Wednesday and they provided the expected doozy: A year-long suspension without pay for Saints coach Sean Payton, an indefinite suspension for former DC Gregg Williams of at least a year, and an eight-game ban for general manager Mickey Loomis.
Obviously this isn’t about the Cardinals, although there are parts of this that do impact the Cards:
– To begin with, the Cardinals will be the first team to play the Saints, since the teams will match up Aug. 5 in the Hall of Fame game to kick off the preseason. Wonder what the talking points will be during that broadcast? You wonder if the Cards are just going to be in the background, because it’s hard to see the Saints’ storylines not dominating.
– The Saints lose second-round picks this year and next. That’ll move up the Cards’ third-round pick a slot sooner. We’ll see what it means in 2013.
– Once the regular season begins, the Cards know that Williams, who had since been hired as the Rams’ defensive coordinator, won’t be around. Williams may never be around in St. Louis; commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t assuring anyone that Williams will be reinstated. Not that new head coach Jeff Fisher can’t work around it — former Cards head coach Dave McGinnis, on staff with the Rams now as an assistant head coach, could drop into the DC role like he once did for the Cards. UPDATE: Fisher said the duties won’t go to a permanent DC. He, McGinnis and Chuck Cecil will split the work.
– Then there is the Kurt Warner tie-in. The original investigation sprouted from the way the Saints treated Warner, then the Cards’ QB, and Brett Favre, then with the Vikings, during the playoffs after the 2009 season. The Cards’ playoff game, in fact, was mentioned a couple of times in the NFL’s official release about the punishments, including Warner himself. “The investigation showed bounties being placed on four quarterbacks of opposing teams – Brett Favre, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, and Kurt Warner.”
Warner, appearing on NFL Network Wednesday, had this to say about the punishment: “I’m shocked, like a lot of people, but not fully surprised. … But this is what Commissioner Goodell has done from Day One. And I love he is trying to make statements trying to protect our game for the long-term.”
Added Warner, “To a degree, this has gone on through the history of our game, where guys have gone out to hit guys really hard to knock them out of the game or at least knock them off their game so it affects (the hitting team) in a positive manner. Of course, not to the extent to where you are paying guys to hurt other guys, and I think that’s where this takes a different turn.”
– The NFL also made clear that they won’t let this happen again, sending a memo to all teams directing the owner of every team to meet with the head coach to confirm bounty systems aren’t in place in any other organization. Said the NFL release, “Each principal owner and head coach must certify this in writing to the commissioner by March 30.”
Tags: Dave McGinnis, Gregg Williams, Hall of Fame game, Jeff Fisher, Kurt Warner, Rams, Roger Goodell, Saints, Sean Payton
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