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Matthew Slater: New kickoff fair catch rule doesn’t make it safer

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.

Matthew Slater has built a long career as a special teams ace for the Patriots, so it’s no surprise to learn that he has strong feelings about the NFL’s new kickoff rule.

NFL owners voted to adopt a new rule for the 2023 season that calls for the ball to be placed at the 25-yard-line if a kickoff is fair caught anywhere inside the 25-yard-line. The stated rationale for the change from the league was to increase safety because of the number of concussions that take place on kickoffs, but Slater said on Wednesday that he does not believe that the change will have the desired effect on the game.

“I understand that we want to reduce head injuries and things of that nature. But we don’t always act as if player health and safety is paramount. . . . They say that they’re making the play safer. But the reality is, they haven’t done a single thing to make the play safer,” Slater said, via Jordan Mendoza of “They haven’t changed the rules, they haven’t changed the techniques. There’s still going to be collisions that occur if the ball is not fair caught.”

The rule change was disliked by special teams coaches when it was initially proposed and head coaches like Andy Reid, Dan Campbell, and John Harbaugh have come out in opposition to it over the last couple of weeks as well. Those feelings weren’t enough to stop the rule from passing, however, and everyone will have to adjust to the new reality this fall.