Bubba Ventrone, Cleveland Browns ready to test NFL's new kickoff rule

The Cleveland Browns special teams coordinator wants to see the new kickoff rule in action
Cleveland Browns Offseason Workout
Cleveland Browns Offseason Workout / Nick Cammett/GettyImages

Cleveland Browns special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone recently spoke with members of the media and just like many fans, he's eager to see one of the newest rule changes take shape.

For one year, the NFL has passed a new kickoff rule that they hope will lead to fewer high-speed collisions. If that proves to be the case, it could become permanent. Borrowed from the XFL, the NFL has a new hybrid kickoff that will allow just two players to move before the ball is touched (or hits the ground) — the kicker and the returner.

The kicker will still be teeing off from the same spot but the kicking team will be at the opposing team's 40. Between the 30 and 35, the receiving team will be lined up in their "set up zone." This will allow returns to resemble typical plays where blocks can be set up at a normal pace. It should bring excitement back to the return game but as Ventrone says, there will be some "trial-and-error" as they hash out the new rule.

“I know that throughout training camp, there’s definitely going to be some trial-and-error things that we’re going to mess around with,” Ventrone said, via Chris Easterling of the Akron Beacon Journal. “I know to your point, like the preseason you’re not going to want to show too much, but you’re still going to have to see things and I think you’re going to see more than you think in the preseason. I do. And I think for us . . . being able to have the joint practice against Minnesota will be really helpful for us. And when we practice it and I plan on going at it a good bit in training camp, we’re going to have to practice hard and we’re going to practice it a lot. So, we have to be on top of it and be ready for it.”

Ventrone, who is entering his second year as the special team's coordinator in Cleveland, is eager to see this happen with the pads on. He also brings up the joint practice with the Minnesota Vikings as being helpful in this process. Oftentimes, NFL coaches and players get more from these joint sessions than any preseason game.

The Browns are one of the teams who could truly benefit from this change since they have Nyheim Hines, a gifted return man. The one concern, however, has to be the fact that kickers will be more involved when it comes to tackling — which is why the Kansas City Chiefs are toying with the idea of safety Justin Reid being their kickoff specialist.

In Cleveland, Dustin Hopkins remains the specialist but he's seen each of the past two seasons end with him out due to an injruy. In 2023, he suffered a hamstring injury while trying to make a tackle on the kickoff.

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