NFL Proposed Kickoff Rule Changes: Love 'Em or Leave 'Em?

ARLINGTON TX - FEBRUARY 06: Mason Crosby #2 of the Green Bay Packers kicks off to the Pittsburgh Steelers to start Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6 2011 in Arlington Texas. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

One of the major elements of the NFL's annual owners meeting, which is taking place here in New Orleans this week, is the possibility of new rule changes for the following season.

How do these new rule changes go from idea to reality? I will let NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson explain the process: 

We survey all the clubs, all the coaches, all the general managers to do a couple of things: number one, to review what went on in 2010, to review the changes that we implemented in 2010 and to get their feedback on the same, and also to look at any proposals they may have - any ideas they may have - with respect to 2011...

We then go to Indianapolis where we have a session with the players. We meet three days as a committee. We have a session with the players, an afternoon session. We had a long session with the Coaches Subcommittee - Coach Madden's subcommittee. We get all their feedback on the rules that we're talking about proposing. This year much of the focus was on the safety rules. Then as both Greg and Ray said we go to Naples and we spend seven days. In Naples what we do is we go through every suggestion brought up by clubs, fans, media, the Coaches Subcommittee, and we try to digest the players' feedback that we got in Indianapolis and how we should incorporate that into proposals...

Finally, the owners decide whether they want to vote on any or all of these proposals during the meetings, which need 24 out of 32 votes to be passed and become official. 

This year there are really only three major changes being proposed by the NFL Competition Committee, small by comparison to years past. But of those three, one has managed to find it's way to the forefront: an overhaul of the kickoff system. This time, I will let the chairman of the NFL's Competition Committee, Rich McKay, explain the proposal: 

The injury rate on the kickoff remains a real concern for us and for the players and for the Coaches Subcommittee, and so we will propose what I think would be a pretty major change to the play itself. The changes would include moving the kickoff line back to the 35 yard line from the 30; not allowing any member of the kickoff team other than the kicker to line up more than five yards from the kickoff line, meaning they would have to line up from the 30 yard line on a normal kickoff; moving the touchback on the kickoff from the 20 to the 25; and we would also make the kickoff out of bounds penalty 25 yards from the kickoff line instead of 30, therefore the kickoff would still end up at the same place, i.e. the 40 yard line; we would also propose elimination of all forms of the wedge block, including the two-man wedge. So there's really five parts, if you will, to that change, and it's a pretty major change to the kickoff play itself.    

At this point, it's still just a proposal. There may not be enough initial support for the changes to even get put to a vote. If it does, it still may not carry enough support. It's a little early but the Chicago Bears have already gone on record saying they'd probably vote against it. Good news for those who don't want to see the proposal passed. 

But just in case, I want to know what you guys think about the possible change to the kickoff system? Is this just another step in the wrong direction for the No Fun League or do you think player safety should always be of the utmost importance, regardless if it means changing years of tradition?

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