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John Mara: NFL “could very well” eliminate the kickoff

Mike Florio looks at the legal and moral implications of the kickoff.

In 2012, Giants co-owner and NFL competition committee member John Mara said that the league was “evolving” toward the elimination of the kickoff.

Player safety was the concern at the time and it has remained a frequent talking point around changes to the way the NFL game is played, but the kickoff has remained part of the game. The latest bit of evolution is the rule moving the ball to the 25-yard-line after touchbacks that was approved on a one-year basis for the 2016 season, something Mara says that the committee felt they’d “at least try” before delving deeper into discussions about the end of kickoffs.

“We’re not at the point where we want to take the kickoff out of the game completely, although we may be moving in that direction,” Mara said, via the team’s website. “One of the concerns is what do you do in a situation where you’ve scored late in the game and you’re down by less than a touchdown, and it takes away the onside kick. As I say, you could very well see the kickoff eliminated at some point in time in the future, but I don’t think we’re at that point yet. It still does remain an exciting play, but it’s also a dangerous play. Obviously concussions are on the top of our list in terms of our concerns for the game going forward.”

Losing the onside kick would be a significant change to the way the NFL game is played, both as a way to facilitate a comeback in the final minutes and as a surprise designed to change momentum earlier in games. That’s one of many things that the league would have to sort out if the league wants to continue down that road.