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John Harbaugh opposes new rule promoting fair catches on kickoffs

With John Harbaugh concerned about injuries and Andy Reid asking, “Where does it stop?” after the recent kickoff adjustment, Mike Florio and Chris Simms outline what other changes could be made in the future.

The NFL changed its kickoff rule to put the ball on the 25-yard line after touchbacks, in the hopes that it would lead to fewer returns, fewer high-speed collisions and fewer injuries.

Not everyone likes the idea.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who was a special teams coordinator before he became a head coach and is always one of the most prominent voices in the league on special teams matters, said the Ravens voted against the rule change because, “We thought there were better ideas.”

“The fair catch rule, we had a chance to weigh in on that with all the special teams coaches,” Harbaugh said. “We had a long talk and discussion about that. We weren’t for it. We voted against it. We think it’s going to create more high-speed head trauma than not having it in there. That’s our position on it. But we’ll see. They want to give it a shot and take a look at it.”

Harbaugh didn’t explain why he thinks the rule will create more high-speed head trauma, nor did he say which better ideas he favors.

One better idea that is generating interest in the football world, however, is the low-impact kickoff popularized by the XFL. That kickoff features 10 players on the kicking team and 10 on the receiving team lining up five yards apart, with no running starts. The XFL has found that its rule results in fewer injuries and more returns. It’s an idea worth exploring, but the NFL’s rule changes seem geared more toward eliminating kickoffs altogether.