Yesterday, a number of the most well respected minds in special teams convened at a league meeting in New York to further the discussion on how to make kickoffs more safe.
According to Palm Beach Post, a number of tweaks to the kickoff were recommended by a panel that included team owners, head coaches, assistant coaches, medical experts, officials, and current players.
The article points out that data collected by the NFL shows that "players five times more likely to sustain a concussion on kickoffs than a play from scrimmage." Over the past three seasons, 71 concussions were sustained on kickoffs, and at least 24 of those occurred during plays when the return team utliized a wedge return. With all of that in mind, it's increasingly difficult to take the stand that nothing needs to change.
Among the suggested changes made by the panel were:
- No running starts or pre-kick motion by the kickoff team
- The elimination of wedge blocking by the return team
- A no-contact zone of 15-yards from where the ball is spotted for kickoff
- A minimum of eight players on the return team lined up 15-yards from the ball
That last piece of the suggestion is almost exactly the same as a kickoff alternative made previously, which you can read more about here. The feedback we received from coaches on that alternative was largely positive.
Eliminating kickoffs altogether seemed like a terrible idea from the get go. So this seems to, at the very least, be on the path to a safer alternative.
Head here to read the full piece from Palm Beach Post.