NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NFL without kickoffs?
It’s an idea that has been kicked around the league offices and will be considered by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the competition committee. Brought back to the forefront by Time magazine, a proposal from Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano, aimed at improving player safety, has sparked an intense debate.
Under the proposal, after a team scores it would immediately get the ball back and start on its own 30-yard line. That club would have the option to essentially attempt a 4th-and-15 offensive play or simply punt the ball and let the defense take over.
“I thought it was an interesting idea,” Goodell said before Thursday night’s Denver-Oakland game, according to ESPN. “The committee will look at it.”
It was met with resistance Thursday from members of the Giants and Jets.
“How safe can you really make the game?” Big Blue’s Domenik Hixon told Newsday. As a member of the Broncos in 2007, Hixon was involved in a kickoff return that resulted in a career-ending spinal fracture for Bills tight end Kevin Everett.
“Eventually you would almost have a flag football league,” Hixon said. “Injuries are going to happen. They’re trying to prevent them, which is obviously good. But you eliminate that, you’re going to eliminate a lot of jobs, too, for sure.”
Giants punter Steve Weatherford said if “you’re going to change anything, change the helmets or something.”
“It’s been a part of the game since its inception,” he said, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. “I understand that you’re trying to take care of people and cut down on the violent plays and everything like that. I mean, where’s it going to stop? At some point, I think you’re going to have to let these guys be football players instead of trying to protect everybody all the time. We know what we’re getting into.”
Kickoffs were moved up to the 35-yard line before the 2011 campaign, and the result has been fewer returns.
But it’s not enough for Schiano. Goodell has had discussions with Falcons president and competition committee head Rich McKay about the proposal, TIME reported.
Goodell told the magazine that he doesn’t “do things for public relations. I do things because they’re the right thing to do, because I love the game.”
Giants special teams coordinator Tom Quinn insisted kickoffs are “a good part of the game.” Mike Westhoff, special teams coach for the Jets, wasn’t keen on the idea either. He said the league should “explore alternative methods” before implementing such a radical proposal.
“I like the kickoffs, I just believe in them,” Westhoff said. “I know the collision part and I think that’s something you have to be careful of. But I think if you teach it the right way, it can be done properly.”
The NFL has stressed player safety under Goodell’s regime. There is a rule in place for next season that will require all players to wear thigh and knee pads. Schiano was the coach at Rutgers when Eric LeGrand was paralyzed during a kickoff.
“It would lead to much less impact and fewer collisions, but it would still be a way to get the game started in similar field position,” Schiano told the Star-Ledger last year of his proposal.
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