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Proposed NFL rule change not needed

April 22, 2012
By CRAIG REMSBURG - Senior Sports Writer (cremsburg@miningjournal.net) , The Mining Journal

The NFL has made some rule changes the last few years that have improved the game.

Most notably, perhaps, was the recent modification of what had been solely a playoff rule involving overtime.

After a team kicks a field goal to take the lead, the other team now gets the ball for a chance to tie or go ahead. Should the team receiving the ball first score a touchdown, then the game is over.

Article Photos

CRAIG REMSBURG

The change was long overdue.

Now, the NFL is considering eliminating kickoffs, no doubt brought on by a rash of concussions suffered by the league's players.

A lawsuit brought on by former NFL players - including former Detroit Lions great Alex Karras - suffering from dementia after repeated blows to the head during their careers certainly has played a part in the proposed change.

The league moved the ball up from the 30-yard-line to the 35 for kickoffs last season in hopes of reducing - or eliminating - kickoff returns.

Too many players, it was believed, were suffering serious injury during returns, either the kamikaze-like defenders going after the ball carrier or the returnee himself smashed by tacklers.

What happened was NFL kickers with strong legs were booting the ball deep into the end zone during kickoffs, cutting returns in half.

It also reduced the number of concussions suffered on kickoffs by 40 percent, according to New York Giants co-owner John Mara, a member of the NFL's Management Council Executive Committee.

Not a whole lot of players now risk taking the ball three or four yards deep in their end zone and trying a return that might only get to the 10 or 15. Instead, they take a touchback and the ball is placed at the 20 for an offensive series to begin.

But the NFL is thinking about eliminating kickoffs altogether.

It would be a bad rule change if implemented.

It would severely limit undrafted players and low draft picks from making an NFL team if they couldn't take part in kickoffs or returns.

It would eliminate the occasional kickoff return for a touchdown, an exciting play Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears, for example, has made numerous times.

But most of all, it would eliminate onside kicks, one of the most daring plays in the game. We don't see it often, but when we do, it's always interesting.

It also sometimes leads to a late Tim Tebow-like rally for a team trying to come back for a win in the final couple of minutes of play.

Under the proposed new rule, a team which closes a scoring gap with a field goal or a touchdown wouldn't likely have a chance to come back for a win if the team that is ahead gets the ball back on, say, the 20-yard line to begin an offensive series - especially if the losing team used all its timeouts to score just moments before.

The NFL being more cautious about head injuries is commendable. No one wants to see a player or former league player suffer from dementia or other debilitating diseases.

But each player knew the potential health risks involved before putting on an NFL jersey for the first time.

Eliminating kickoffs, unless a suitable answer is found that would preserve onside kicks in a game, is not the way to go.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is cremsburg@miningjournal.net.

 
 

 

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