According to a report in USA Today, NFL head of officiating Dean Bladino held a conference call with all 32 NFL special teams coaches for an open forum on more potential rules changes for kickoff plays.
The league has already ratified the rule change that will bring touchbacks out to the 25-yard line in 2016 instead of the 20-yard line. The rule change was made in the hopes that fewer teams would attempt returns with a greater reward for a touchback. Many special teams coordinators however, believe the rule change will have the opposite effect.
A good number believe kickoff teams will attempt to kick short of the goal line in an attempt to pin the opposing return team deep in their territory and avoid the end zone altogether.
Either way it appears that the league is already exploring ways to further improve the safety for one of the most violent plays in the game.
“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,” said NFL Chairman of the Competition Committee Rich McKay. “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.”
Blandino reportedly asked for special teams coordinators to submit ideas to further reduce the high speed collisions that take place on kickoff plays. Among the suggestions were.
- 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
These ideas could lead to more rule change proposals for kickoffs in 2017. Such proposals could be approved and ratified as soon as next March.
Tags: kickoff return, Special teams
Posted in Inside the Bills