When the NFL’s annual owners meeting got underway a couple of days ago, the competition committee conducted its usual meetings and hearings on rule reviews and new rules proposals. One of the new rule proposals that fans would see have an immediate impact was the original proposal for changes to kickoffs. The original proposal, deemed to be in the interest of player safety, moved the ball up to the 35-yard line, eliminated the two-man wedge, and moved the ball up to the 25-yard line on a touchback. Bill Belichick, who usually never seems to have an opinion about anything, came out strongly against these these proposals.
“It’s a pretty complicated proposal,” Belichick said. “I don’t like the idea of eliminating the kickoff [return] from the game. I think it’s one of the most exciting plays in football. It looks like the Competition Committee is trying to eliminate that play. I don’t know if that’s really good for the game.”
It would be hard to disagree that statement. Some strong-legged kickers can boot the ball out of the end zone now, let alone with the ball being moved up 5 yards. The elimination of the two-man wedge would eliminate a critical blocking scheme that has sprung many a kickoff returner. A new set of rules did pass, but there were some alterations to the proposal just outlined. The ball will still be moved up to the 35-yard line, but the two-man wedge will remain, and touchbacks will stay at the 20. Belichick didn’t seem to mind what finally was passed.
“I think this is a lot simpler. It’s clean,” Belichick said after voting in favor of the new rules. He then discussed the possibility of fewer kickoff returns. “It’ll cut down some, sure. Statistically it will. Based on the numbers, you’re still probably looking at at least two-thirds of the kicks being returned, maybe three-quarters. At the end of the year it goes down anyway. There’s a lot more touchbacks in the first part of the season than there are at the end. The ball just doesn’t carry as far in the cold.”
Sorry to point out a little hypocrisy here O Hooded One, but doesn’t moving the ball up 5 yards still kinda eliminate the kickoff return play for teams facing a strong kicker, something you said you opposed? Just sayin’…