We’re back, but while we were gone there was still plenty of news happening around the NFL. Most notably the competition committee met and despite failing to review blown calls that affected the outcomes of a Lions-Bears game and a Dolphins-Steelers game, they instead voted to dramatically alter the special teams phases of the game by changing where kickoffs occur and where a touchback starts from.
The NFL claims this is for safety reasons and I applaud them for that, but make no mistakes about it, this also takes away from one of the most exciting aspects of the game. Whereas since 1993 the kickoff has occurred from the 30 yard-line, it will now take place at the 35. Players will be prohibited from standing more than five yards away from the ball, limiting their momentum at the time of the kick, and all touchbacks will now move the ball out to the 25.
The bottom line is that there will be fewer kickoffs returned for scores, fewer big plays and a lot less excitement. But also fewer injuries. Already they have banned the wedge on kick-returns, meaning no more than three players can form a wall of blockers. That was a change made last year. Now players will have limited momentum at the time of a kick, fewer balls will be returnable and there will be even less incentive to take a ball out of your own end-zone. If you don’t think these rule changes will have a profound impact on the game, think again.