Touchback rule is resurrected, passed for a year
As of Tuesday, the proposal to change the touchback point was dead. As of Wednesday morning, it’s not only revived but also the law of the land. For one season.
Owners have voted to change the placement of a kickoff that goes through the end zone, or that is downed in the end zone, from the 20 to the 25. The rule was passed on an experimental basis; in 2017, at least 24 owners will have to vote in favor of the provision again. Otherwise, the touchback point will revert to the 20.
The rule is aimed at encouraging more touchbacks, in an effort to reduce the number of kickoff returns. Multiple coaches believe that it will result in more kickoff returns, because more teams will kick the ball short and try to pin the receiving team inside the 25.
Whether the number of kickoff returns decreases or increases remains to be seen. As one source explained it on Tuesday to PFT, the NFL should be concerned that constant acknowledgement that the kickoff return is the most dangerous play in the game will become a powerful piece of evidence against the league if/when a player who suffers a serious injury on a kick return sues the NFL and/or the NFL Players Association -- especially if the league tweaks the rules in a way that triggers more, not fewer, returns.