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Saints’ Darren Rizzi: No special teams coach likes the new fair catch rule

NFL Competition Committee Chair Rich McKay states the kickoff rule change starts with “health and safety,” but Mike Florio and Chris Simms echo Matthew Slater’s comments to question how that’s the case.

Saints special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi opposes the new NFL rule promoting fair catches on kickoffs, and he says every single special teams coach in the league agrees with him.

“I don’t think there’s a special teams coach in the league – in fact, I know there’s not a special teams coach in the league right now that likes the rule,” Rizzi said, via Mike Triplett of NewOrleans.Football.

The new rule, which owners passed after lobbying from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, will spot the ball on the 25-yard line after fair catches on kickoffs. That is intended to encourage more fair catches and therefore fewer high-speed collisions on kickoffs and fewer injuries, but Rizzi said there may be unintended consequences like more squib kicks that lead to more chaotic situations and more high-speed collisions.

“We as coaches, the most important thing is the health and safety of the players. I think there was this false narrative being thrown around that the coaches didn’t want it because it was gonna be less returns,” Rizzi said. “The last thing any coach wants is to lose a player to injury.”

Rizzi said he wishes the league instead would have emphasized calling more penalties for players lowering their heads to initiate contact on kickoffs, and he believes special teams coaches are ready to lead the way in reducing those head-down collisions.

“We’ve gotta do a better job as coaches teaching that – and we’ve gotta do a better job officiating it,” Rizzi said.

Rizzi said he doesn’t expect the Saints to fair catch many kickoffs and doesn’t expect other teams to do it much, either.