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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With all the overtime games the Cardinals played in 2011, it’s amazing that, had the playoff overtime rule been in place at the time — the one mandating a possession for each team, unless a touchdown was scored first — it wouldn’t have mattered in any of Arizona’s four OT wins. Three came after the Cards had held a possession on defense, and the fourth came after the Cards scored a TD on the opening possession of the overtime.
Nevertheless, the NFL owners voted to make the playoff overtime rule the regular season rule. Basically, a team can’t win on an opening possession of overtime on just a field goal.
The rule that was passed that will have a greater impact will be automatic replay review of all turnovers. Now all turnovers and all scoring plays don’t have to take up a coach’s challenge.
Tabled until further discussion at the owners’ May meeting were a couple of other proposals: One allowing the teams to have rosters up to 90 players in the offseason (80 is the current limit; teams had 90 last year because of the lockout) and the other would be to have an exception to the injured reserve rule. Currently any player sent to injured reserve cannot return that season. The new rule would allow a player to return after eight weeks. Also tabled was a suggestion of moving the trade deadline two weeks later, from Week 6 to Week 8.
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Ahh, some football to talk about.
The competition committee — of which Ken Whisenhunt helps as part of the coach’s subcommittee in making rule-change recommendations — is considering a couple of changes for this season, which will be voted upon during the upcoming owners’ meetings.Committee chairman Rich McKay, GM of the Falcons, was part of a conference call yesterday talking about the issues.
The biggest one (at least in my mind) is changing the kickoff scenario. In part because of injuries being suffered on kickoffs, the spot teams kick off from would be moved back to the 35-yard line (where it used to be) from the 30. In theory, more touchbacks, right? But the rule change would also mean touchbacks would come out to the 25-yard line instead of the 20. At the same time, the wedge block (which last year was reduced so only two men could come together at one time, instead of three or four) would be eliminated altogether.
You have to wonder if that would kill off long kickoff returns, or if it would make a major difference. One thing that would help returns? Another part of the changed rule would say the coverage players couldn’t start further back than five yards of the ball, preventing a major running start (and, in theory, cutting down disastrous collisions).
The other notable change would be the use of instant replay automatically on all scoring plays, so coaches would not have to use a challenge — which is already the way college football works. If that went into effect, the other correlating change would be for coaches to lose the opportunity for a third challenge. Right now, two correct challenges earn a third, but McKay said given that the third challenge is rarely used and because so many challenge situations would be eliminated because scoring plays will be looked at, it makes sense to just cap challenges at two.
A couple other notes:
– McKay said the infamous “catch all the way through the end of the play” rule would remain, meaning the Calvin Johnsons of the world would still be dealing with an incompletion.
– NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said even with the current lockout, in terms of the 2011 schedule “the plan is to release it as we normally do in mid-April.”
Tags: Ken Whisenhunt, rules, schedule
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