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NFL players don't want kickoffs to get the boot

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NFL players don't want kickoffs to get the boot

DENVER (AP) The eight teams left in the NFL playoffs can thank their special teams for a good part of their success. That's one reason players are still upset Commissioner Roger Goodell has floated the idea of abolishing kickoffs altogether.

Baltimore Ravens return specialist Jacoby Jones, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season, said if the league gets rid of the electrifying plays, ``I'm going to retire. I will go (ballistic). ... If they take out kickoffs, they're going to hate me in this league.''

The idea is only a suggestion, one Goodell says the league will consider in the offseason for safety reasons, but players are vehemently opposed to such a radical change they contend would shake the foundation of America's most popular sport.

``I haven't found anybody that likes the idea, because, first of all, the sport is called football, so you can't keep taking the foot part of it out,'' Denver Broncos punter Britton Colquitt said. ``It would also be really confusing if they were like, `Stay tuned for kickoff,' and there was no kickoff, you know? What are they going to say, `Stay tuned for the start of the game'?

``Boooring!''

Abolishing kickoffs would also eliminate the onside kick as an option - like the one the New Orleans Saints used to turn the tide against the Indianapolis Colts coming out of halftime in the Super Bowl three years ago - and it would prune some pizazz from the game, like Desmond Howard's kickoff return for a touchdown that gave Brett Favre his only championship ring in the mid-1990s.

Of the 13 kickoff-return TDs this season, seven came from teams that reached the playoffs as the Ravens, Colts, Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks and Vikings all sported resumes that boasted at least one of the backbreakers.

Players say rules changes like banning the blocking wedge, moving the kickoff up five yards and limiting the number of players who can line up on one side of the ball for an onside kick have already lessened the number of violent collisions in games and they wonder if messing with the kickoffs is simply going too far.

``If you've got to do something about it, if you still feel like it's injuries, then move it up to the 40 and then it's like 99 percent of the time it's going to be a touchback,'' Colquitt suggested.

That way, the onside kick would still be an option.

``But you even see the returners, they're returning the ball from deeper in the end zone than they used to because they want to return it,'' Colquitt said. ``They're not out there in fear for their life, they're not saying, `I don't want to do this.'''

Indeed, there were eight 100-yard kickoff-return touchdowns in 2012, the most of any season in NFL history.

``Bringing one out, how is that unsafe? It's football,'' Jones said. ``Everybody doesn't take them out from 8 yards deep, but I take my chances because I have fun. And I have guys in front of me that do a heck of a job blocking. We take care of each other and roll with the punches.''

The NFL has made safety a top priority in recent years as it faces lawsuits by thousands of former players who say the league withheld information on the harmful effects of concussions. According to an AP review of 175 lawsuits, 3,818 players have filed suit. At least 26 Hall of Famers are among the players who have done so.

Two years ago, the league moved the kickoff from the 30 to the 35-yard line to cut down on violent collisions, and that has resulted in far more touchbacks and, the league says, a lot fewer head injuries.

The average number of kickoff returns since the rule change has fallen to 1,385 a season from about 2,100 per year before the change, according to STATS LLC.

``We continue to look for other ways to take the head out of the game,'' Goodell said in a recent speech at Harvard. ``Two years ago we moved the kickoff line five yards forward to the 35. That reform yielded real benefits - a 40 percent reduction in concussions last year on kickoffs. College football then adopted our rule. Some think that the kickoff, the play with the highest injury rate, should be eliminated from the game or modified even further.''

Tampa Bay first-year coach Greg Schiano suggested to Goodell that instead of kickoffs, teams would have the option of punting from the 30-yard line or going for a first down in a fourth-and-15 situation. Schiano witnessed one of his players at Rutgers, Eric LeGrand, get paralyzed on a kickoff in 2010.

Goodell has called Schiano's idea ``interesting.''

Browns kicker Phil Dawson believes it's illogical.

``I'm all for player safety,'' Dawson said recently. ``I do think the NFL has done a good job in the past, like with the wedge rule. This suggestion doesn't add up. It doesn't address what they say the dangers are because punts are just as violent. There aren't going to be any touchbacks. How many times have you seen a punt returner waiting for the ball to come down and the gunner just kills him? It doesn't make sense to me.''

Without the kickoff, teams trailing in the waning minutes would have to convert fourth-and-long following a score instead of attempting an onside kick.

Interestingly, since 2005, the onside kick conversion rate has been 19.7 percent, while the rate for fourth-and-15 has been 19.2 percent, according to STATS.

Eliminating kickoffs would also get rid of the onside kick as a strategic surprise, the kind the Saints used to win the Super Bowl.

Then, there's the whole issue of job security for special teams.

``That's how some people make it in the NFL,'' Jones said. ``If it wasn't for kickoff and punt returns, I probably would have had a shot at making it, but that's my best asset. What about Devin Hester?''

The idea of abolishing one of the game's most exciting aspects certainly irritates Trindon Holliday, who has returned both a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns for Denver this season.

``I don't like it. He's messing with some of the players' livelihoods,'' said Holliday, who pointed to teammate Omar Bolden, a rookie cornerback who had nine special teams tackles and a 19.3-yard kickoff return average, as an example of a young player making his mark on special teams while biding his time behind veteran players on defense.

Teams will always need a fourth receiver or a third running back, so their jobs won't necessarily go away. But their opportunities to contribute, make an impression in games and earn more playing time from scrimmage certainly will, suggested Broncos receiver Matthew Willis, who earns his activation on game days primarily for his contributions on all of Denver's special teams units.

Opportunities. Onside kicks. Electrifying returns.

It's just too much to take from the game, Colquitt said.

``Sometimes there's too many things that people try to change when if it ain't broke, don't fix it,'' he said. ``I know it's all because of injuries, but I think there's a lot more guys getting hurt on offense and defense than in the kicking game.''

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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AP Sports Writers David Ginsburg and Tom Withers contributed.

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton on Twitter:http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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Ahead of NFL Draft, Ravens add to wide receiver corps with Willie Snead

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USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of NFL Draft, Ravens add to wide receiver corps with Willie Snead

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Receiver Willie Snead has bid farewell to the Saints, which means New Orleans apparently won't match the contract the Baltimore Ravens offered the restricted free agent.

Eager to add a target for quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens on Friday offered Snead a two-year, $10.4 million contract. The Saints had five days to match the deal. Snead indicated Monday on Twitter that he's headed out of New Orleans.

Snead tweeted: "What I'm going to miss most is the men in the locker room & the coaches."

He added: "Even though I'm sad to go, I'm even more excited for the next chapter in my life. I can't wait to strap it on as a Baltimore Raven."

Hampered by a three-game suspension and a hamstring injury, Snead was limited to eight catches for 92 yards last year.

In 2015, he had 69 receptions for 984 yards. He caught 72 passes for 895 yards in 2016.

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2018 NFL Mock Draft Ravens Roundup 6.0: The final countdown

2018 NFL Mock Draft Ravens Roundup 6.0: The final countdown

After months and months of talk and a lot of predictions, the 2018 NFL Draft is finally here.

On Thursday, Ozzie Newsome and Co. will enter the draft room prepared for battle. A lot of questions await them and most of them can not be answered until the ten minutes leading up to their pick. 

Even with the additions of Michael CrabtreeJohn Brown and Willie Snead, will the Ravens continue to add to their wide receiver corps? 

Will they trade down and scoop up a tight end or will they address the offensive line and snag Mike McGlinchey? 

All of our questions will be answered in no time, but for now, sit back and enjoy the wild ride that is the first-round of the NFL Draft. 

NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig (Link) Charley Casserly (Link

— Mike McGlinchey (OL)

With the exit of Ryan Jensen, the Ravens are now in need of an offensive lineman. 

At the combine, McGlinchey put up 24 reps on the bench press, had a 28.5 inch vertical and a 105 inch broad jump. 

"The offense lacks playmakers which is why wide receivers Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore work," Standing says. "Right tackle also in play. McGlinchey seems to have moved ahead of the other tackle prospects."

ESPN's Mel Kiper (Link) CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso (Link) Sporting News (Link) Rotoworld (Link

— Calvin Ridley (WR)

Ridley is one of the few wideouts in this draft projected to go in the first-round. While his combine performance didn't help his stock, running a 4.43 40-yard dash, recording a 31-inch vertical, a 110-inch broad jump and a 6.88-second 3-cone drill, many are still predicting he lands with the Ravens or somewhere in the first-round. 

"Ridley underwhelmed at the combine, but his college tape shows a player who’s nearly uncoverable," Kiper says. "I’m going to trust the tape in this case and still make him my top-ranked wideout (Maryland’s D.J. Moore is not far behind). Baltimore could also target an offensive tackle at pick No. 16."

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah (Link)

— Hayden Hurst (TE) 

The Ravens haven't addressed their need at tight end in free agency and the reason could be because they're holding out for the draft. 

QB Joe Flacco has a tendency to favor Ravens tight ends and Hayden Hurst out of South Carolina is being considered by many the top TE in this draft. 

The ex-minor league baseball pitcher, who walked on at South Carolina at 21-years old, is being compared to Dallas Clark. "His fearless play demeanor combined with size, strength and athleticism make him a well-rounded prospect with the versatility to line up all over the field," according to his draft profile

Jeremiah, who once was a scout for the Ravens, predicts they will be looking to draft back for Hurst.

NFL.com's Bucky Brooks (Link) 

— Lamar Jackson (QB) 

It was reported last week that Jackson would be making a visit to the Ravens' facility during the final week of pre-draft visits, and with Joe Flacco nearing the end of his contract, now could be the time to find his successor. Jackson provides support on the ground and in the air, but scouts are concerned about his accuarcy. 

"With Joe Flacco viewed as a potential salary cap casualty in 2019, the Ravens can secure their future QB by grabbing Jackson if he is available at No. 16," Brooks says. "Remember, Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and assistant head coach Greg Roman have experience nurturing athletic quarterbacks into dynamic playmakers (see Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Colin Kaepernick), so the Ravens could be the perfect fit for the 2016 Heisman winner."

Bleacher Report (Link

— Mike Gesicki (TE) 

Gesicki is another tight end option for the Ravens. Standing tall at 6' 5", Gesicki ran a 4.54 40-yard dash and recorded a 41.5 vertical jump at the combine. He also ended his time at Penn State as their tight end leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. 

His draft profile describes him as a "pass-catcher who can get open and has the ball skills to win against linebackers and safeties." Scouts are also comparing him to the likes of Jimmy Graham. 

Land of 10 (Link

— Christian Kirk (WR)

Kirk provides another wide receiver option if Ridley is gone at 16, even though his draft profile has him projected in Rounds 2-3. 

The 5-10, 201-pound junior finished with 71 receptions, 919 yards and 10 touchdowns at Texas A&M.

At the combine, Kirk ran a 4.47 40-yard dash, recorded a 35.5 vertical jump and a 7.09 second 3-cone drill. 

His bottom line states, "Kirk is a well-built, mentally tough slot target whose game is built around pace more than explosiveness. His lack of speed and length make him less likely to impact games down the field, but his footwork, route tempo and hands should give him an opportunity to find catches underneath. Kirk's ability to help in the return game is a plus, but the difference between average and good as a receiver could depend on finding the right fit."

CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson (Link)

— D.J. Moore (WR)

As the draft has slowly approached, Maryland's D.J. Moore has risen in the rankings. 

Many pundits are ranking him narrowly behind Alabama's Calvin Ridley as the top WR in the draft. 

The 6'0"  junior ran a 4.42 40-yard dash, a 6.95 3-cone drill and recorded a 39.5 vertical jump. 

"Moore is bigger than former Terrapin wideout Stefon Diggs, but their playing style and athletic ability while at Maryland are similar," states his draft profile.

"Moore doesn't have the height and length teams look for outside and may become a full-time option from the slot. He clearly has the short-area quickness and talent after the catch to handle those duties, but his route-running needs to become more focused and fast to unlock his potential. Teams are high on Moore's potential and believe he has the talent and traits to become a good WR2 in the league."

Moore is being compared to the likes of Pierre Garçon. 

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