For the past several years NFL kickoffs have become the most boring part of the game.  In most cases the ball is kicked into or out of the end zone for a touchback, placing the ball for the offense at the 25 yard line.

Studies have shown that the kickoff is the most dangerous play in the game and the NFL has been considering ways to modify it or flat out eliminate it.  We saw how dangerous the kickoff can be right here in Buffalo back in 2007 when linebacker Kevin Everett fractured and dislocated his spine while trying to make a tackle on a kickoff return.

Everett was taken off the field in an ambulance and although at the time he said he couldn't feel anything below his shoulders, after surgery and treatment he was able to walk again.  But his football career was over.

But during a meeting at the NFL offices in New York a committee of officials, coaches and players including former Buffalo Bills special teams ace Steve Tasker made recommendations to modify the kickoff rules without completely eliminating it from the game.  The recommendations will be made to the NFL owners and would take effect this fall.

Among the modifications:

  • Members of the kicking team would not be allowed a running start.  They wouldn't be allowed downfield until the ball was kicked.
  • At least 8 members of the receiving team would have to be within 15 yards of the kickoff spot.
  • All forms of wedge blocking by the receiving team would be illegal.

These changes alone could help.  It would eliminate the violent collisions of players running into each other after flying downfield.  Instead, both kicking and receiving team players would be running side by side.

One suggestion that was considered, but rejected was placing the ball at the 20 yard line instead of the 25 for any kickoff that went thru the uprights.  That's an idea I like, but maybe it's something they could revisit.

I'd hate to see kickoffs eliminated from football.  It's such a traditional part of the game and without it you'd never see those game changing plays that we've seen over the years.  The first very first play at then Rich Stadium was a 104-yard kickoff return by the Washington Redskins in a preseason game.  And of course who could ever forget the Music City Miracle; the Tennessee Titans kickoff return for a touchdown in the final seconds of their playoff game with the Buffalo Bills in January, 2000.

No matter which way it goes, the kickoff return is one of the most exciting plays in the game and there aren't too many people who'd want that to go away.

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