In an effort to reduce injuries, league owners approved changes to kickoffs at meetings earlier this week. Here are the changes, according to this Cleveland.com article:
The changes move up the kickoff line 5 yards to the 35-yard line and prohibit players on the coverage team from getting more than a 5-yard running start on kickoffs. Kickoffs out of bounds will continue to be brought back to the 40-yard line or at the spot the ball went out, and the two-man blocking wedge was not eradicated.
One thing that does not change in all of this is the fact that the ball will still be spotted at the 20-yard line after a touchback.
Browns kick returner Josh Cribbs has plenty of beef with these rule changes, and if you follow him on Twitter at all, you’ll know what I mean. He’s certainly been vocal about his disdain for these changes, going so far as to voice his opinion on a number of shows.
It’s hard not to side with Cribbs on this one; after all, this rule change makes it much easier for teams to kick away from playmakers like Cribbs by just booting it into the end zone. An extra five yards makes a huge difference for an NFL kicker and if you can simply kick it into the end zone without any repercussions, why wouldn’t you?
Sure, this might reduce a few injuries here and there, injuries on kickoff coverage aren’t the ones that are making people reconsider whether the game is too violent. This move also has the potential to strip away a layer of excitement from the game. There is no doubt that teams will use this to their advantage because, for them,the ultimate goal is winning. It won’t matter what the fans want, which will be the chance to see a great play.
Of all the things that people in the NFL could agree on nowadays, this is it? It’s good to see that the Browns were one of the six teams to vote against this change, but it was a lost cause. As Cribbs has pointed out, “All you’re eliminating is kickoff return units and a big way teams can win and lose football games.” There is still the potential for injuries to happen – this is professional football, after all – and the only thing that can truly be prevented with this move is more excitement in the country’s most popular sport.