Yesterday, I discussed Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and his original displeasure over the new kickoff rules, and eventual change of heart. He did not like the fact that the original proposal eliminated the two-man wedge and moved touchbacks up 5 yards to the 25-yard line. Once those proposals were removed, he was on-board. The new rule moves the ball up 5 yards (to the 35-yard line), which will likely increase the amount of touchbacks and reduce the amount of kickoff returns. This was done, supposedly, with an eye on player safety. Personally, I would not have voted for this.
Despite the two-man wedge still being in place, kickers will have an easier time booting the ball deep into, or out of, the end zone. Sure, that’s an advantage for the Patriots. Stephen Gostkowski is a strong-legged kicker who is very good at getting touchbacks on kickoffs. However, there are several players that have made returning kicks their specialty, and have actually been signed to bigger contracts than they otherwise would have probably gotten had they not been so dynamic returning kicks. Devin Hester and the Chicago Bears, as well as Joshua Cribbs from the Cleveland Browns are players/teams that disapprove of the new rule. Cribbs voiced his displeasure on the new rule on NFL Network.
“I totally disagree (with the rule change),” Cribbs said. “I don’t think they take special teams serious enough. You can say you’re making it safer for players, but that’s part of it, not taking special teams serious enough. That ticks me off, because we, the Cleveland Browns, win games on special teams.
“I was listening to (some) of the owners speak about how player safety trumps athletic, entertainment ability. But we have yet to see any proof or anything that says most of the injuries happen on kickoffs or kickoff returns, and this is why, so we need to move it up 5 yards and it will eliminate it. I just don’t see the relevance in the 5-yard rule. All I see is the lack of opportunity that will occur because of that rule.”
How many more things will they remove from the game before enough is enough? I agree with Cribbs that there’s no evidence that most injuries happen on kickoff returns. Most of the injuries, at least the concussion-related ones, come from big tackles or high hits on receivers not expecting the hits. Even then, there is opposition from some players to the flags and fines being tossed around due to hits on receivers. Quarterbacks are WAY overprotected. You can barely breathe on a QB without getting a “roughing the passer” penalty. I understand where they’re coming from looking out for the players, but when does it stop?