Goodbye to Kickoffs

The NFL held its annual league meetings from March 25 to March 28 in Orlando, Florida. At the meetings, they changed the infamous catch rule and made rules to improve player safety. These things were recommended by the NFL Competition Committee. They also recommended removing kickoffs if something was not done to improve player safety.

I agree with the competition committee that the NFL should remove kickoffs. Injuries are 5 times more likely to occur on a kickoff than any other play. The NFL has tried making changes in the past but none of them have worked so far. In 2011, the NFL moved the kickoff up to the 30-yard line from the 35-yard line, and, in 2016, they moved the touchback up to the 25-yard line from the 20-yard line. Both of these changes were aimed to increase the number of touchbacks, which in turn decreases the number of returns. But Mark Murphy, a member of the competition committee and Green Bay Packers team president, says that they “haven’t really done anything to make the play safer.” The NFL continues to decrease the number of returns, but that does not mean there are fewer injuries. On touchbacks, players still run full speed down the field because of the players or the blockers.

This is not the first time that a change to kickoffs is being considered for football. Pop Warner got rid of kickoffs in 2016 to reduce the risk of concussions. Also, a new professional football league, the Alliance of American Football, is starting in 2019 and they have already removed kickoffs from the rules. The league is backed by former NFL players like Troy Polamalu and Jared Allen. The league’s founder, Charlie Ebersol (son of television executive Dick Ebersol), is making player safety a priority and removing kickoffs is something this league is doing to make the game safer.

One of the biggest arguments for keeping kickoffs is the onside kick. That is a team’s only opportunity to get the ball back immediately after scoring and without it, it may be impossible to win a game when down by more than 2 scores with little time left. Ebersol has a solution for this. In his league, if a team wants to get the ball back after scoring, they get a 4th and 10 on their own 35-yard line. If they get the first down, they keep the ball, and if not, the opposing team gets the ball already in their opponent’s territory. The NFL should take this rule if they remove kickoffs.

The NFL either has to find a way to make all players on the kickoff safer or seriously consider removing kickoffs from the game.