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  1. #1
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    Critics Blast Kickoff Rule Change

    Updated: August 23, 2011

    Critics blast kickoff rule change

    ESPN.com news services


    Former Tennessee Titans safety Donnie Nickey is the latest player to complain about the league's kickoff rules change, saying in an email to the (Nashville) Tennessean that commissioner Roger Goodell is "eliminating jobs" in his quest to improve player safety.

    "I think the NFL is destroying the true game of football and the physicality that America has grown to love. For someone who has never played the game to make so many changes unchecked is criminal. Paul Brown is rolling over in his grave because of all the changes made in the name of 'player safety,' " Nickey wrote in the email to the newspaper.

    The NFL moved the kickoff spot up five yards (from the 30- to the 35-yard line) to decrease injuries by increasing touchbacks, reversing a rule change made in 1994 when the spot was moved from the 35 to the 30. The change could have another effect -- hurting the job prospects of special teams players.

    The 31-year-old Nickey, who is a free agent and remains unsigned after playing eight seasons with the Titans, said in his email that big hits are part of the game.

    "It's an injustice to the game and the men who have made their living covering kickoffs and sacrificing their bodies to have their jobs made obsolete," he wrote in the email to the newspaper.

    Touchbacks have increased dramatically this preseason because of the rule change. According to data compiled by ESPN Stats & Information, 103 of 278 preseason kickoffs have not been returned, meaning 37 percent of kickoffs have gone for touchbacks. Sixteen percent of kickoffs resulted in touchbacks during the 2010 regular season, when the kicks were made from the 30-yard line.

    Nickey isn't the first player to complain about the change in the rule.

    Cleveland Browns kick returner Josh Cribbs, the league's career leader with eight kickoff returns for touchdowns, has been irate since owners, citing the need to protect players from violent collisions, announced the change during the lockout in March. Owners voted 26-6 to approve the rule change.

    "I don't see (injury) stats behind it, and that's what the issue was," Cribbs said last week. "There's no stats to back it up. Their intentions are good, but the stats aren't there to back up the reasoning."

    New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said last week that he was told that the NFL was trying to eliminate the kickoff from the NFL altogether.

    "As it was explained to me, what the league and the competition committee were trying to do is eliminate the kickoff returns, which I think they'll do," Belichick said last week. "They'll eliminate a lot of them, particularly early in the season when the weather is less of a factor."

    The league denied Belichick's claim, however, in a statement to The Boston Globe last week.

    "That is not the goal. We are not aware of anyone representing the NFL that has made that statement," the NFL told the newspaper.

    Minnesota Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell said last week that he believes there will be fewer touchbacks when the weather becomes colder late in the season.

    "As the weather changes," Longwell said, "the ball just doesn't fly as far. It's a fact. I think those [touchback] numbers will come down."

    The importance of players covering kickoffs diminishes with fewer opportunities to do that. So with kickoffs coming from the 35 instead of the 30 that could influence roster decisions.

    "Now you're kicking through the uprights every time and there are touchbacks, what is the value of the cover guys?" Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said earlier this month. "How many cover guys do we really need? Do you really want a true special teams player, a guy who is a special teams captain, a Bill Bates-type guy? Is that worthy of a roster spot?

    "Well, kickoff is just one aspect of the kicking game so there are other opportunities for that guy to make an impact on the team. We're still in the process of discussing that and seeing if we have the guys who fit those roles and how we want to play it out strategically."

    Nickey believes the NFL's change in the rule simplified the Titans' decision whether to keep him on their roster.

    "Businessmen, lawyers, and insurance companies are turning football into flag football and preventing men like me from feeding my family," he wrote to the newspaper.

    Browns president Mike Holmgren, one of the most vocal critics of the rule change, said Sunday he believes the topic will be revisited for next season.

    "It was sold to the membership for safety reasons. It's hard to argue that point. No one wants to see more concussions," he said, according to the News-Herald of Willoughby, Ohio.

    "But, goodness gracious, I think there would be a good chance we revisit it next year. It was a selfish motive on my part, too, (when the Browns opposed the rule change) because we have a good return guy, but other teams do as well. I don't think anybody is going to like this."


  2. #2
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    Re: Critics Blast Kickoff Rule Change

    This game is getting more and more boring since Goodell took over. Guess I better starting learning about Australian rules football or Rugby, cause I'm not long for the NFL at the rate this namby pamby league is changing it's ways.

  3. #3
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    Re: Critics Blast Kickoff Rule Change

    Quote Originally Posted by RamFan_Til_I_Die View Post
    This game is getting more and more boring since Goodell took over. Guess I better starting learning about Australian rules football or Rugby, cause I'm not long for the NFL at the rate this namby pamby league is changing it's ways.
    The ironic thing is, kickoffs were spotted at the 35 yard line back when the league was less regimented and less namby pamby.

    The NFL moved the kickoff spot up five yards (from the 30- to the 35-yard line) to decrease injuries by increasing touchbacks, reversing a rule change made in 1994 when the spot was moved from the 35 to the 30.
    Regardless, I don't like the rule change. What's next? Just placing the ball at the 20 to start a possession?

  4. #4
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    Re: Critics Blast Kickoff Rule Change

    I really dislike this rule. I understand being concerned about safety, but football by its very nature is a dangerous, violent sport. When you take steps to try and curb that, you risk making the game less exciting and appealing for fans. This is one of examples of the league doing just that, as kickoffs now have very little thrill or impact on the game.

  5. #5
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    Re: Critics Blast Kickoff Rule Change

    Regardless, I don't like the rule change. What's next? Just placing the ball at the 20 to start a possession?
    Mike, I'm guessing if Goodell had his way that's what would happen.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Critics Blast Kickoff Rule Change

    Well it appears I am one of the few that love the new rule, and it boils down to the fact that I hate kickoffs/ special teams in general. While some will tell you that a touchdown return is the most exciting play in football, I strongly disagree- all it takes is a ton of speed and a little bit of luck. It allows less skilled teams to compete with superior and better built teams. Just doesn't sit well with me. I know guys like Cribbs and Hester are superb at what they do, but there is a reason why guys like Chris Johnson and Jamal Charles don't return kicks- not because they don't have the skill, but because it is not worth the risk.

    I suppose my dislike comes from a combination of the terrible special teams coverage play by the Rams during the Mike Martz era, and the horrible feeling I used to have in standing helpless on the sidelines during a high school game, when in a flash all of your hard work playing both ways goes down the drain because your starters can't risk injury running full speed at your opponents.

    Its a dumb aspect of football, you will never convince me otherwise, and I would love it if we got rid of special teams altogether

    So here are my new "special teamsless" rules:
    Start at the twenty every time you would have a "kickoff". Any time you "punt" you move the ball forty yards forward and the opposing team starts there, with the ten yard line being the minimum. As for field goals... well you're talking to a guy whose high school career consisted of three losses by a combined total of three points (yes, three one point losses in two years, where at least one point after attempt was missed in each game), so I'm going to go ahead and say just get rid of "field goals" all together. Come on, how ugly are those "posts"?

    May be a bit extreme, but I'm sticking to it. (btw I have thought long and hard about this )

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    Re: Critics Blast Kickoff Rule Change

    I don't know about you, but having seen the Rams kick coverage and return units over the past 10 years, i'm glad they are reducing the impact of the kick off!!

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    Re: Critics Blast Kickoff Rule Change

    And most importantly this will screw up my "draft Hester/Washington/Cribbs in later rounds" strategy in my fantasy league.


    okay, maybe that's not THE most important aspect of this.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Critics Blast Kickoff Rule Change

    Quote Originally Posted by C-Mob 71 View Post
    Well it appears I am one of the few that love the new rule, and it boils down to the fact that I hate kickoffs/ special teams in general. While some will tell you that a touchdown return is the most exciting play in football, I strongly disagree- all it takes is a ton of speed and a little bit of luck.
    I disagree completely. Kickoff and punt returns are a major part of what makes football, football. Not only are they exciting, they can be game changers. There is nothing better than watching a big return turn the tide of a game and pump up a team.

    I can't imagine NFL football without the likes of return legends Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, Dante Hall, Brian Mitchell, Deion Sanders, Mel Gray, Eric Metcalf, Rick Upchurch and Devon Hester. And how important to the GSOT were the returns of Az Hakim and Tony Horne? IMO, what these guys did on the field was not "luck", it was great vision, uncanny instinct, and superior skill.

    It will be a sad day in the NFL if it ever comes down to an official placing the ball on the ground to start a possession.

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