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Injured on a kickoff, Eric LeGrand says the play shouldn’t change

Eric LeGrand

Eric LeGrand accepts the award for perseverance onstage at the ESPY Awards on Wednesday, July 11, 2012, in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)


Buccaneers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand has had a big week. Making a stirring appearance at the ESPYs on Wednesday and landing a deal with Subway, he also has performed the guest-writing duties for Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback.

And LeGrand, who suffered a broken neck in 2010 during a kick return while playing college football at Rutgers, thinks that the NFL shouldn’t change the kickoff play in order to reduce injuries.

“Take it from someone who has gotten injured on a kickoff,” LeGrand writes. “I think kickoffs in the NFL should return to the way they used to be, because lots of football players can make a career out of playing on special teams, and the new system takes some of the thrill and excitement of the game out.”

The league moved the kickoff point from the 30 to the 35 in 2011, greatly increasing the number of touchbacks and in turn greatly reducing the number of kickoff returns and in turn greatly reducing the number of opportunities for large, strong, fast men to collide after running at each other in the opposite direction.
Giants owner John Mara has suggested that the kickoff play could be removed completely. Last week, however, Mara said he doesn’t know whether that will happen.

If football players are willing to accept the risks of playing football and the kickoff is part of football, players are willing to accept those risks, too. And if a man who has suffered a life-changing injury during a kick return believes the play should stay in the game, his words should carry a lot of weight.