The NFL has been making a multitude of changes over the past 15 years. As we all learn more and more about the long-term impact of concussions, it makes sense.
The big changes have come to quarterbacks and other offensive players deemed defenseless. The NFL has severely limited how and where players can hit quarterbacks. Hits to the head and neck are not allowed, nor are plenty of low hits, as well. And, pass-catchers also have a lot of protection now, with defensive backs unable to deliver bone-crushing hits when those players have no ability to defend themselves or brace for the hit.
There have been big changes to kickoffs in the NFL over the years, too. Kickoffs were moved up from the 30-yard-line to the 35-yard-line, and the run-up of the kick coverage team has been limited. Touchbacks are now spotted at the 25-yard-line instead of the 20-yard-line. Also, certain blocking formations, like the wedge, have been restricted.
And, another change is coming to NFL kickoffs. Similar to the rule in college football, returners can fair catch kickoffs in between the goal line and 25-yard-line, and the ball will still go to the 25-yard-line. This is to decrease the number of kickoff returns, which the NFL says are plays with a very high injury risk. But, one coach is not-so-fond on the rule change. Here is Pro Football Talk with more details.
San Francisco special teams coordinator Brian Schneider is not so sure the NFL’s new kickoff rule will actually do anything for player safety….
“Yeah, well when you say safety of the player, we’re all in favor of that, and so that’s where it starts, and we all agree on that,” Schneider said, via NBCSportsBayArea.com. “I don’t know if this necessarily addresses any of that. I think there could be more returns, there could be shorter kicks, there could be more collisions, there could be dirty balls like a squib or a bloop, so there’s going to be more coverages because of it, too, so I don’t know if we have enough of a sample set to really say, and like I said, I don’t even know the rules yet.”
My guess is we won’t have kickoffs at all in the near future.