The future of kickoffs

Posted by Darren Urban on May 22, 2018 – 8:11 am

One of the things on the owners’ agenda during their current meeting in Atlanta are — again — tweaks to the kickoffs. The idea, of course, is to try and make the play a little safer, given that the rate of concussions on kickoffs remains considerably higher than any other part of the game. Most of the changes won’t be in-your-face. The wedge, which was already pared down from a handful of players once upon a time to just two, will likely be eliminated entirely (meaning only one-on-one blocks.) That’d be a win for the coverage team. Eight of the 11 return men would also have to be within 15 yards of the ball, creating a big hole beyond those players. More chances for mortar onsides kicks, perhaps?

On the other side, the kickoff team will no longer be able to get a running head start, which is a significant difference. They also must balance with five players on each side of the tee — so it’s a little easier to line up blockers.

The kickoff is a play that will constantly be evolving in the name of safety. There is no guarantee it won’t be eliminated for that reason somewhere down the road. That would bring a bunch of new questions — without kickoffs, rosters would most certainly be constructed somewhat differently. But for now, there will be more change, and then more evaluation.


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33 Responses to “The future of kickoffs”

  1. By Adam Smith b1723 fka DTL on May 22, 2018 | Reply

    Jay Feeley had some interesting takes on the new rules. Seemed to like, me too. He would hope they stop there and leave the play in the game, biggest momentum changer.

  2. By AndyM on May 22, 2018 | Reply

    The trade-off of safety v. excitement. Personally, I would love to see something radical: make it six on six and open up the field for both the kicking and receiving teams. Of course, that will never happen, but changing rules to expand strategy and mix up otherwise expected outcomes makes the game more interesting, e.g. the extra point rule changes.

  3. By D on May 22, 2018 | Reply

    M. Kendrick’s is now a free agent, if healthy would push Bynes and add great depth in the LB room.

  4. By Richard S on May 22, 2018 | Reply

    Hopefully it’ll make it safer for the players and maybe it’ll transfer down to the high school level. A freshman at the local high school within walking distance of my house was killed as part of the kicking, return teams a year or so ago.

  5. By JTDG on May 22, 2018 | Reply


    Do you know if the same amount of injuries occur on punts?

    I would guess no, since the rules changes are similar to punts. the receiving team has 9-10 guys within 10 yards of the LOS. Players do not get a running start (unless you consider the two gunners). Punting team has a specific alignment (although there are some variations).

    If no one rushed and players dropped back 10 yards to block on punts, it would be similar to what the rule changes are.

    I would be interested to hear the stats on punts regarding injuries. If they are considerably lower, they may have found their answer.

  6. By Darren Urban on May 23, 2018 | Reply

    JTDG —

    RE: Punts

    I don’t have that information, but the league has made it clear kickoffs are on a level all their own, so I would assume punts are not nearly as bad.

  7. By mitchaz on May 22, 2018 | Reply

    Clssylssy and JTG…I have an important question for each of you. Could you email me at

  8. By Scott H on May 22, 2018 | Reply

    I don’t know….at some point, there is just the reality that football is a dangerous and violent game. There is only so much you can do to make it “safe.”

    Making the equipment better is a good thing.

    The concussion protocol is a good thing. A VERY good thing.

    Penalties and punishment for dirty play is a good thing. Players who go looking to hurt other players are THE most dangerous thing on the field IMHO. Players can be aggressive without being dirty.

    But if it is going to continue to resemble the game we have come to love, it still has to be FOOTBALL. And that means it has to continue to be fast and – there is just no way around this – it has to continue to be violent.

    As long as there are going to be 22 very big, very fast, and very finely tuned athletes in a confined space, moving at high speeds, and having collisions… is going to continue to be dangerous. There is NO way around that and there is NO way to take that out of the game.

    Kickoffs are entertaining and I hope they will continue to be part of the game. Some of the changes sound like they are an honest attempt to keep the excitement of the kickoff intact while reducing the high-speed collisions. Nothing wrong with that. No harm in trying to tweak a few things. It’s a living thing, can be altered on-going. .

  9. By Dan Nicholson on May 22, 2018 | Reply

    How weird would it look going to a game and as it gets ready to start both teams lining up on offense and defense. Take a little getting used to. So, if the nfl does eliminate kickoffs, does that take away from their opening weekend in which every home team has ‘kickoff normally painted on the field. How would they word it for future openers that’s appealing? No problem with making it safer, just don’t take the exciting plays out

  10. By Bill Thompson on May 23, 2018 | Reply

    This comment is not about the kick-off changes, but the announcement of Arizona hosting the Super Bowl. Please change the sign in the article about this announcement on the Roman numerals reads 49 not 57.
    The correct Roman numeral is LVII

  11. By Darren Urban on May 23, 2018 | Reply

    Bill —

    RE: Correction

    I’m not sure to where you refer. I only mention the Roman numeral once, and it says LVII. If you are talking about the picture, that picture is from the last time the Cardinals hosted a Super Bowl.

  12. By NJAzCardsFan on May 23, 2018 | Reply

    How about bringing back drop kicks…???

    Or every kickoff is an onside kick but must go 20 yards?

    Chances are we will never see LSH type kickoff returns again, with the new kickoff rule changes.

  13. By JTDG on May 23, 2018 | Reply


    Do you know the plan for Hassan Reddick ?

    We both thought he would benefit moving inside but the defense has changed (or at least rumored to change) to a 4-3.

    So, is the plan to make him a Sam, Mike, or Will ? I heard Buc will be calling the signals, which is usually done by the Mike, so will the use his speed at Will or have him set the edge as a Sam?

    Just curious.

  14. By Darren Urban on May 23, 2018 | Reply

    JTDG —

    RE: LBs

    Will have a story next week.

  15. By creditcard on May 23, 2018 | Reply

    Rugby is a violent sport,very violent. No pads,and less injuries. Rugby does however teach players to tackle properly (head up, legs moving, wrapping up the opponents back leg.

    College and NFL players have lost good technique. This then results in countless injuries. The change in kick-offs is to protect the players — which is a good thing. The league is experimenting with a means to be safer while still entertaining.

    All this is good, but coaches need to teach proper tackling, blocking, and running. this too will reduce injuries.

  16. By Darren Urban on May 23, 2018 | Reply

    Credit —

    RE: Rugby

    I believe there needs to be some better technique. And I agree rugby is violent — but I’ve watched enough rugby where I feel comfortable in saying, it does not compare, in terms of how often violent collisions happen, to the NFL.

  17. By Patrick on May 23, 2018 | Reply

    In April, the reported plan was Bucannon “Will,” or weak-side linebacker, but also calling plays. Josh Bynes, the Mike (middle) linebacker role, who wil, be subbing out in different packages and Haason Reddick, the Sam (strong-side) linebacker. Not sure if that has changed.

  18. By Scott H on May 24, 2018 | Reply

    There is always going to be coach-speak, but I love that I hear Wilks saying that the best 11 players are going to play ( as it relates to the QB position ). Granted, he also said Bradford is the starting QB. But of course he is going to say that.

    I just like that he is open to letting the best players play. Because that is the way it should be. It shouldn’t be about the name on the jersey or how much money players are making. It should be about rolling with the players that give you the best chance to win. Period.

    I’m not trying to be provacative or anti-Sam Bradford here. But I see no reason why the competition at QB shouldn’t be wide open from day one. And I see no reason why Josh Rosen shouldn’t start this year if it looks like he is ready to go.

    I, too, see no reason why it should be a “long shot” that Rosen start in 2018. To the extent that he may truly mean what he is saying…..I’m with you, coach.

    Given Bradford’s history of injury…..I think we ALL need to be hoping that Rosen IS ready to start this year. Because he might have to.

  19. By Rick on May 24, 2018 | Reply

    There will be a penalty on ever kickoff.

  20. By clssylssy on May 24, 2018 | Reply

    ALL sports are dangerous and professional athletes understand the risks when they pursue a professional career. I have to agree with Creditcard, that learning proper technique should be more of a focus than it is, rather than pouring millions into more sophisticated equipment and changing the game, trying to adjust external factors to make up for fundamental deficiencies, i.e. changing the game to produce a more profitable outcome. Some players have long and iconic careers with few injuries because they educate themselves on technique and take personal responsibility for living healthy live styles during the off season as well as while they are playing/training for the regular season (Tony Gonzalez, Larry Fitz, Jason Witten, etc)
    I recently saw another commenter muse about the “leather helmet days”,jokingly posing the question of whether we would be seeing as many head injuries and issues with players leading with their head if they had not been given a modern day helmet for a weapon. I had to chuckle as there is always a downside to every “solution” in the NFL and often times it seems that a lot of time and money gets spent on finding ways to basically just stack the odds in favor of the house.
    Changing the game, allowing politics into sports, are things nobody wants and will drive away most fans faster than anything. The Owners care only about their bottom line and most have never played any sport in their lives, have no first hand knowledge of what really goes on, and do not, apparently, listen to or respect information given to them by the men in the trenches.
    Having grown up on real football, I find that some of the greatest games in sports occurred before everything was so sanitized and going to a game was a memorable and exciting competition rather than just the best party in town.

  21. By Coach K on May 24, 2018 | Reply


    Roger Goodell continues to make things worse for the NFL brand. His latest rule regarding demonstration has opened a new can of worms. It’s clear to me the Military Industrial Complex put the heel of their boots on Goodell’s neck and demanded compliance to our standards, or no more funding from the defense department.

    Goodell simply fumbles the ball every time the league has a crisis. He screwed up on domestic abuse, substance abuse, player celebrations and now this. I’m all for standing for the flag, but the way Goodell handled this was just stupid. There were so many other options he could have chosen.

    So instead of the focus being on the game, we must put up with more distraction this year once again because Goodell has shown he is not really in charge.

  22. By Coach K on May 24, 2018 | Reply

    I am happy that Keim is making great moves to address key holes on both sides of the ball.

    I would like to see another interior defensive tackle added before the start of the season. I’m not convinced we have enough beef in he middle of our defense to have an effective rotation. One more big body needs to be added.

    Great job on stealing Jamar Taylor from Cleveland. That was a huge steal in exchange for a 6th round pick.

  23. By Scott H on May 24, 2018 | Reply

    Coach K –

    First, I am NOT a fan of Goodell’s, either. I dislike a lot of what has been done in / around the NFL under his watch.

    But, no, he is NOT in charge. Not at all. He is a puppet who dances to the tune of the people who employ him – the NFL owners. THEY are the ones who are really in charge.

    As much as I have nothing to say in defense of Goodell, I will say this – if someone were paying me $40 million to do what they wanted me to do…..I’d probably do what they wanted me to do. Why wouldn’t I?? It might be akin to selling your soul to the devil but it would make you set for life ( and beyond ) and after you were done being the commissioner, you could either disappear and not care what people think OR you could write a book about serving as the commissioner of the NFL and how everything you did was not YOUR doing but that of the NFL owners.

    And that would make him a whole lot more money that he doesn’t really need!

    Not a bad gig, huh?

  24. By JTDG on May 25, 2018 | Reply

    I read the Ray Brown / DJ Humphries article. Solid article and good to hear the connection. If Humphries can stay on the field , he could have a breakout year.

    This is when you know you have been a cards fan maybe too long. I read this caption,

    “Cardinals offensive line coach Ray Brown (left) and left tackle D.J. Humphries share a laugh during practice on Wednesday.”

    Innocent enough, right? The first thing that pops into my mind? Derek Anderson. “I take this stuff seriously.”

  25. By clssylssy on May 27, 2018 | Reply

    Interesting that you would choose to announce via an outside source that as of June 1, there will be no more comment section and the message board as we now know it will cease to exist. I have to wonder if this is true and if so, if the Organization is wanting to distance itself from some of the fan feedback that may have been perceived as criticisms/flack.
    Like many other people, I get tons of junk emails everyday so when scanning my email, I often trash anything that has the appearance of junk, selectively reading only email from sources I recognize. Your announcement of the phasing out of the message board initially ended in my trash as it came from and was directed to “” (has the appearance of some sort of creditcard ad). Is this legit? The message was signed from Darren Urban, Senior manager,website/Senior writer
    In the email message you(allegedly) stated that this message board had aged and that the new message board would be accessed through Facebook or Twitter or members could set up accounts with or they could make posts at an unofficial Cardinals Message Board by visiting: (As you probably know there are other Cardinal sites out there and this seems rather curious and suspicious)
    I personally have found your blog to be one of the best in the NFL as it has allowed for fan feedback and exchange, allowing many fans to feel more connected to the organization and other members of the fan base at large, so I do hope that this entire email announcement is bogus.
    Can you please clarify the legitimacy of this change and perhaps post the email here where the blog readers and fans will see it. As it turns out, it went to my automatic spam as junk and was called to my attention by a Saints fan friend who received the email and called me with questions. I have to say, it didn’t sound like something that would come from you or the Cardinal Organization, my belief being that anything legit would have come in the form of a post on your blog.
    Thank you for clearing up the confusion.

  26. By Darren Urban on May 27, 2018 | Reply

    Clssy —

    RE: Message board

    It is valid. It was posted on the board itself at the beginning of the month:

    It has nothing to do with “distancing itself from some of the fan feedback.” It has to do with manpower and logistics. The board — which has nothing to do with this blog — just is another arm that needs to been overseen, and at some point, something has to give. With the vast majority of fan interaction now coming via social media, it was the board that is a casualty. Again, because it has nothing to do with the blog, it didn’t make sense to post it here. Many people who go to the board don’t even know this blog exists.

    All that said, changes are coming, and that will include the blog. It has zero to do with criticism, and frankly, it’s disappointing after everything that has been posted on both the blog and this comment section — negative stuff has never been censored — that anyone would think that.

    I will have a post about the blog after the holiday weekend.

  27. By Coach K on May 27, 2018 | Reply

    Scott H

    I understand Scott. Valid point.

    But when the fans boo at every NFL draft you realize how much
    the fans hate this commissioner.

    He is the typical silver spooner who just cannot connect with the fans
    and his inability to make the right decisions and inability to look down
    the road will eventually reach a point where the owners turn on him like
    Jones and Kraft have already done last year.

    If he pisses off a few more owners, I think his term will end soon.

  28. By clssylssy on May 27, 2018 | Reply

    Thank you for taking the time to clarify that, I don’t know how I could have missed the post but assume it came at a busy time as things were winding into summer..
    You have been great in your management of this part of the website and have always been very open and fair when managing the comments portion without censoring fan opinons while maintaining a civilized and tasteful standard. I can imagine how labor intensive this has been for you and appreciate your commitment to the job and tireless efforts.
    I do nonetheless hate to see this being turned over to social media (which I really hate and view as negative energy) but understand the need to save time. It’s too bad that the Organization couldn’t have brought on some sort of unpaid internship for individuals interested into the field of sports writing that would have served the goals of the Organization while providing a valuable service to the fans by keeping your blog intact.
    This has been a very positive fan experience and I thank you for a job well done.

  29. By Darren Urban on May 28, 2018 | Reply

    Clssy —

    RE: Blog

    Again, please don’t confuse the message board and the blog. They are two separate things.

    The blog will be continuing, just in a slightly different format, and commenting will still be available.

  30. By Rick on May 28, 2018 | Reply

    It seems like the league is always changing the game . Now its the kickoff rules. injury’s look like they are on the increases. Is that because the players are not taking care of their selves in the off season ? If you get hurt you can ride the bench and collect your check. I just do not remember in the past that there were all the injury’s . Having your quarterback not make it through the season was not the norm . Changing the game all the time makes you not want to watch it. . If you like the game the way it was. Now we going to watch them hand fight all the way down the field on the kickoff. Wow how exciting. Might as well make em onside kick every time.

  31. By Scott H on May 28, 2018 | Reply

    Coach K –

    Personally, I love that the fans boo Goodell at the draft EVERY TIME he comes to the podium. Because that is the FANS making their voice heard. And I think it reflects very poorly on the NFL that there IS such loathing between the fans of the sport and its commissioner. Talk about a dis-connect….

    But the sad thing is, the owners don’t care what the fans think. They don’t have to. The owners can stay behind the scenes, dictating what they want but they have Goodell to stand out front and be the face of it. The owners are always at a safe distance. They don’t feel a thing.

    Goodell doesn’t care, either. And HE doesn’t have to, either. Again, he’s making $40 million a year. Does it look like it bothers him that he gets booed on draft night?

    NFL fans are a very mis-treated lot when ya come right down to it. The team owners don’t care about us, never have, never will. And they never even have to deal with us because they have Goodell to stand up as their face / their voice so HE can take the heat. But Goodell doesn’t care, either, and what good is it really doing us to boo him? He has no authority at all. He’s a puppet.

    So where does all of our frustration go? Nowhere. It’s like trying to punch the wind because you don’t like it. Good luck, right? Knock yourself out. Throw punches until you wear yourself out. The wind didn’t feel a thing and it keeps right on blowing. That is pretty much the relationship we have with this sport we love so much.

    How SAD is that?

  32. By Joe C. on May 29, 2018 | Reply

    Darren, Before the messages go away you have to tell us; What was up with DWash? Was he failing drug tests all that time? Any chance he’ll drop weight and Keim will sing him as our new CB2? Sorry. But I have to know!

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