The next evolution in the kickoff rule was supposed to be the adoption of the NCAA-style rule that results in a fair catch inside the 25 being placed at the 25. That apparently won’t be happening.
As recently explained by Albert Breer of SI.com, special-teams players and coaches have accelerated the opposition to the rule.
The proposal was passed unanimously by the Competition Committee in March. The issue was tabled from March to May, an acknowledgement that the vote would have failed if it had happened at the annual meeting in Arizona.
Based on Breer’s report, it sounds as if it’s even more likely to fail now.
The issue, according to Breer, was discussed last week during a regularly-scheduled call among the league’s special-teams coordinators. They decided to recruit special-teams players to participate in active opposition against the rule.
One concern with the rule is that it will spark more squib kicks inside the 25, which couldn’t be fair caught and would have to be returned. That could create more, not less, chaos on special teams.
The proposed change comes from an overriding desire to make the most dangerous play in the game, as the league has called it, more safe. It’s been a focal point for the past decade or so, with gradual changes aimed at making the play safer.
It started with efforts to spark fewer returns. Several years ago, a more comprehensive change to the rules was devised to reduce the full-speed nature of the impacts during kick returns.
One question that emerged in the aftermath of the March meetings was whether playing surface has a role in the question of injuries during kickoff returns.
If switching to grass could make the play safer, it’s another reason to switch to grass. But the NFL has no desire to do it, because it would be expensive to do so.
So in lieu of spending a little extra money to make the game safer in all phases, the NFL would rather make dramatic changes to one of the most important aspects of special teams.