Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

NFL considers alternatives to the kickoff, including the XFL model

As the NFL considers strategies for making the kickoff safer, the NFL is willing to potentially borrow from lesser pro football leagues.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL is considering the XFL kickoff as a possible replacement for the NFL kickoff.

In the XFL, the kick happens at the 30 yard line. Other than the kicker, the players on the kicking team are aligned at the receiving team’s 35 yard line. Ten of the receiving team’s players are positioned five yards away. Only the kicker and the returner may move before the ball is touched by the player fielding the kick.

The NFL is exploring XFL data regarding the play. The overriding goal is to reduce the potential for concussions (serious neck injuries are a less-publicized concern) by shrinking the distance between opposing players. The XFL rule leaves only five yards of space for players to cover before contact, keeping them from getting to top speed.

NFL players running down the field following a kickoff reach an average speed, we’re told, of 17 miles per hour.

Switching to the XFL approach wouldn’t be an easy sell. One source with extensive knowledge and experience coaching special teams predicts it will be an “ugly play,” with the kick returner getting “crushed.”

“They have no idea how much different NFL players are,” the source said. “There will literally be nowhere to run.”

For 2023, the NFL agreed to allow a fair catch between the goal line and the 25, with the receiving team getting the ball at the 25. The NFL knows this is not a permanent solution.

It hopes to find one. If the NFL can’t, the kickoff could go the way of the flying wedge.