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NFL May Be Contemplating Major Rule Change That Could Alter the Game Dramatically


"It's an off-the-wall idea."

Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby (2) kickoff against the Detroit Lions during an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. Credit: AP

Denver Broncos kick off to the San Diego Chargers in an NFL football game in Denver in 2011. (Photo: AP/Jack Dempsey, File)

Could American football games someday never have the crescendoing "ooooooaaaahhhh" from the fans of the home team as the kicker of the rival runs toward the pigskin in a kickoff play? They might not if the idea mentioned by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to do away with the kickoff comes to fruition.

How you might ask would the ball be returned to the other team? Goodell explained in a Time magazine profile by Sean Gregory:

[...] after a touchdown or field goal, instead of kicking off, a team would get the ball on its own 30-yard line, where it’s fourth and 15. The options are either to go for it and try to retain possession, or punt. If you go for it and fall short, the opposing team would take over with good field position. In essence, punts would replace kickoffs, and punts are less susceptible to violent collisions than kickoffs.

“The fact is,” Goodell, told Gregory of the idea first posed by Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, “it’s a much different end of the play…It’s an off-the-wall idea. It’s different and makes you think differently. It did me.”

New England Patriots kick off against the New York Giants in an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., in 2011. (Photo: AP/Michael Dwyer, File)

ESPN explained that Schiano, who coached at Rutgers University in 2010, witnessed player Eric LeGrand receiving a paralyzing injury a during a kickoff return:

Schiano told ESPN The Magazine in September that he believed kickoffs would eventually be eliminated from pro football. "I believe that day will come. Unfortunately, it will probably take more players being seriously hurt. But I think there's another way to do this."

Former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand, right, and his mother Karen LeGrand pictured in 2011. (Photo: AP/Mel Evans, File)

The NFL has already instituted new kickoff rules to make that portion of the game safer. According to the NFL earlier this year, the new rules have already helped reduce the number of reported concussions in the league. Last season, the NFL moved kickoffs up to the 35-yard line (a five yard adjustment), which has increased the number of touchbacks.

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Pierre Garcon (85) is hit by Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Dan Skuta (51) on a kickoff during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in 2010. (Photo: AP/Darron Cummings)

Tennessee Titans kick returner Marc Mariani (83) gets set to receive the opening kickoff against the Arizona Cardinals in the first quarter of an NFL football preseason game this year. (Photo: AP/Joe Howell)

In addition to reducing the risk of "catastrophic injury," according to NBC Sports, such a move would also give punters, long snappers and gunners, as well as punt return teams, more time and value on the field. At the same time, though "kickoff specialists would become extinct, and return specialists who are much better returning kicks than punts would be far less valuable to the broader roster," NBC Sports pointed out.

Just as not all fans were happy with the league moving up the kickoff a few yards, Gregory speculates the idea to eliminate it completely would not be well received either, as it is often an exciting part of the game that can occasionally yield long returns. And if teams start taking advantage of the opportunity, it could alter the game dramatically.

Let us know what you think about this proposal by taking our poll:

Read more of Gregory's in-depth profile of Goodell in Time magazine here.

Featured image via AP

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