Should The NFL Change kick off Rules?




There are few plays in football more exciting than the kickoff return for a touchdown. A fleet player weaving his way in and out of traffic to take the ball 90 or 100 yards for six points is always thrilling. There's another side to kickoffs, though.

The injuries to Kevin Everett of Buffalo and Cedric Killings of Houston remind us huge men are sprinting downfield where other huge men are waiting to throw their bodies in front of them. Injuries are bound to happen and as we've seen they can be especially serious. That's why agent Peter Schaffer wants the league to change the rules for kick coverage to try and enhance safety. He spoke with the Denver Post:
"To worry about these kids spending the rest of their lives in a wheelchair makes you instantly want to make a change. There has to be a change. There are often 300-pound men running straight into each other on the wedge. The wedge has to be outlawed."
Schaffer represents Tony Palmer of Green Bay. Palmer fractured a bone in his neck on a kickoff against the Giants ending his season and jeopardizing the rest of his career. Along with outlawing the wedge, Schaffer suggests having the coverage teams start in a 3-point stance and on the 30-yard line to slow their acceleration downfield.

While I understand Schaffer's concern I don't see the NFL making any changes that radical.

The wedge has been part of the game from day one and is the most natural way to block for a return. Teams have dynamic returners like Devin Hester and Ted Ginn because they change games and aren't likely to vote for a rule change that's going to limit their effectiveness. By the same token, having the coverage units start in a down position would be a big advantage for the returners. No coach or GM is going to get behind something which costs them that much field position.

If they do tweak something it would probably be the amount of running start that coverage players can get before the ball is in the air. That seems reasonable and the league does a little something to improve player safety almost every year. Anything else would likely be too drastic for the league to swallow. It sounds horrible but injuries, even life-threatening ones, are a fact of football life and there's no way to make the game completely safe.

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