Can The Kickoff Be Saved?

The NFL Competition Committee has been at work trying to make kickoffs safer in NFL games.  There are myriad aspects to their suggested changes in what sort of blocking will be permissible and how formations for the kicking team will be regulated.  You can find descriptions of the proposed changes in this report by Mark Maske in the Washington Post.  It seems as if the Competition Committee recognizes that kickoffs are problematic regarding “player safety” but the Committee wants to try to legislate ways to keep kickoffs in the game.

There was a recent study cited by ESPN which concluded that kickoffs in the NFL were 5 times more dangerous to players in terms of concussions.  Moreover, the study also found that many of the concussions incurred on kickoffs that went out of the end zone or on kickoffs that were not returned by the receiving team.  If that is factual, that means that the collisions that create concussions happen even on plays that are seemingly benign because there is no runback.

[Aside:  I have not reviewed the study in question here or its methodology or its “counting rules”; therefore, I am in no position to comment on the confidence one should put in the results.  Nevertheless, it is indeed logical for a football fan to conclude that kickoffs create more violent collisions that most other plays and that those plays might be somewhat more dangerous to participating players.]

I will say that if indeed the probability of a concussion goes up 500% for every kickoff in a game, then there is at least sufficient reason to consider the possibility of removing the kickoff from the game.  I am not suggesting a move that will begin an inexorable march toward the “sissification” of pro football; this is not something that will lead to an inevitable situation where football players take the field wearing tutus.  Thinking about the possibility that football might continue to exist without the kickoff as part of the ritual may be the common-sense thing to do.

Presumably, the NFL kickoff rule(s) will change this year – along with the “what is a catch rule” – and we will see if the changes make an innately violent game just a tad safer.  I suspect that it will not take long for special teams’ coaches to figure out ways to get around these rule changes in order to try to pin opponents back in their territory on kickoff plays.  When they do that, big kickoff collisions will be back even if these rule changes make them drop on a temporary basis.

Thanks to, we are aware of a very strange story involving a high school superintendent in New Jersey.  Here is the first paragraph of that report:

“A high school superintendent in New Jersey is in deep doo-doo after being caught pooping on another high school’s football field. This wasn’t a one-time occurrence, either.”

Here is link to that story where you can read all of the gory details.  I think the best part of the saga is that the pooping perpetrator has been charged with “lewdness” and “littering”.  I guess the “littering” charge is there because the area does not have an “anti-dumping” ordinance…

Over in England, Arsene Wenger has been the coach/manager of Arsenal in the English Premiere League for more than 20 years now.  However, he will be replaced at the end of this season; Arsenal has 3 games remaining in the 2018 season.  The Gunners are in 6th place in the 20-team English Premier League and have only a mathematical chance to advance and finish in 5th place for the season.  Notwithstanding that place in the EPL Table, Arsene Wenger has been an icon in EPL football for the last two decades.

Wenger is one of the coaches who took over for a “legendary figure” at Arsenal and managed to succeed and hang around for a while – 22 years to be more precise.  Feelings and loyalties regarding EPL teams are even more intense than similar circumstances for teams here in the States.  Arsenal’s rivals did not take kindly to Wenger due to his success and his candor regarding opposing players or managers.  Nevertheless, his was a successful time at the helm for Arsenal and his successor will have large shoes to fill.  As of today, his record at Arsenal is 705 wins, 280 draws and 247 losses.  Even counting draws as unacceptable as losses, his winning percentage at Arsenal is .572.  Arsene Wenger is retiring at the age of 68.

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“All 22 ESPN experts predicted that Portland would beat New Orleans in their NBA playoff series – only to have the Pelicans sweep the Blazers in four.

“Even Brandon Belt’s 21-pitch at-bat didn’t produce that many foul tips.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



5 thoughts on “Can The Kickoff Be Saved?”

  1. You are a master at the play on words Jack – anti-dumping ordinance… Isn’t ESPN experts an oxymoron? I especially like the moron part of that word. Thanks Jack

    1. T.C. LaTorre:

      Thanks for the kudos.

      ESPN has some experts – – and they indeed have some morons too.

      1. There are times it appear they like to hear themselves talk to each other in a proverbial echo chamber. Not one of them can “Whoa, Nellie” like Keith Jackson.

  2. Given the ways (onside kicks, the ability to score on your own kickoff even if it is rare) that kickoffs differ from punts, as well as the excitement of a TD return, I can’t really see the kickoff being dropped. Think of how last year’s playoffs would be affected if it was not possible to onside kick, instead having to blow at least 2 minutes of game clock to maybe get the ball back. Also, how would field position be determined in this case, 40 yards from the 30 regardless of how good the kicker is?

    1. Rugger9:

      One proposal is to have the “receiving team” always start at their own 25 yardline – – unless the “kicking team” opts for an onside kick. The onside kick would not involve a kick the same way it does today. Here is the “new onside kick”

      Kicking team lines up at its own 30 yardline facing 4th and 10. It gets one play to convert that “first down”. If it does so, it keeps the ball and starts its drive. If it does not, the ball goes over to the “receiving team”.

      The folks who offer up that rule say that the likelihood of converting 4th and 10 is approximately the same as recovering an onside kick. I cannot verify that assertion but offer it here merely as an explanation of where that scenario comes from.

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