FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick wondered aloud at his Friday morning press conferece if the new touchback rule is doing as much for player safety as the league hoped it would.
The reason? Last weekend he saw Denver's Kayvon Webster take a massive hit from Kansas City's Terrance Smith in the second quarter, knocking Webster from the game with a concussion. Webster was in the process of covering a kick that was kneeled for a Chiefs touchback.
That's not the kind of play that the NFL Competition Committee was anticipating when it implemented a one-year experimental rule placing touchbacks at the 25-yard line following kickoffs. With five extra yards tacked on to kicks kneeled in the end zone, receiving teams were supposed to be encouraged to take fewer kicks out. Fewer returns was supposed to mean fewer high-impact collisions, meaning fewer devastating injuries, including concussions.
When Belichick was asked for his thoughts on the new rule after a 15-game sample size, he alluded to the Chiefs-Broncos game as an indicator of just how difficult it can be to predict which plays will lead to head injuries.
"I'd say last week was a good example, though, of some of the different proponents of 'we want more touchbacks,' " Belichick said. "We saw a pretty big concussed play with a touchback. Part of the touchback is, 'Well, we think it's a touchback so everybody's not playing the same speed. Because we think it's a touchback, it's going to be a no play.'
"But then, as a coverage team, you don't know for sure the guy isn't coming out or not so you're playing it at full speed. So some of the concussions and some of the injuries look to me like they come on touchbacks. If we want more touchbacks, is that really solving the problem here as it's been presented by the Competition Committee? You know how I feel about it. We'll see how smart some of that has really been to address the problems that we think are being addressed.
"It seems like, football, we got a pretty good game here. Been that way for a long time. Seems like the kicking game has been a great part of our game. But I guess we have a lot of people who feel like the game needs to be changed so I don't know. We'll just have to see how it all turns out."