A few weeks back, the NFL announced several rule changes to help make kickoffs safer following some comments made by Packers president Mark Murphy.
The comments Murphy made at an annual league meeting in Florida included him saying that kickoffs were “by far the most dangerous play in the game,” and added that players are five times more likely to suffer a concussion on a kickoff than a play from scrimmage.
Rule changes for kickoffs in 2018 followed after the NFL owners meeting a few months later, including the elimination of wedge blocking from the return team, the kicking no longer gets a running start, 8 of the 11 players on the return team have to be lined up within 15 yards of the ball now, and the kicking team has to be a balanced 5×5 on each side of the kicker.
The rule have been largely well received by the coaching community, with many eager to see what type of changes they bring.
However, according to the Journal Sentinel, there’s at least one NFL special teams coordinator who thinks the new rule changes may actually backfire from their desired outcome of leading to less kickoff returns and more touch backs.
Packers special teams coordinator Ron Zook shared his perspective:
“I think there’s a lot of people wondering about how it’s going to be. Thankfully, we have at least what we think it’s going to be now, the rules and so forth, (so) we’re able to work on it. You’re probably going to see, in my opinion, it’s just my opinion, but more returns.”
“They’re trying to take the high-speed rate, peak speed on a rail and the big collisions out. When I say I think there’s going to be more returns, that’s Ron Zook’s opinion. There may not be (more returns). I just think the fact that the kickoff team is not going to be as far down the field when the returners catch the ball, I think people may have a tendency to maybe bring it out.”
Zook has an interesting point, and it’s something that both the coaching community, fans, and players will be keeping close tabs on as the 2018 NFL season begins.