Feb 1, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during a press conference in preparation for Super Bowl XLVII between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens at the New Orleans Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Now that the game of NFL football is furthering itself from the brutish, overly physical sport that we have all grown to love, another proposition is being considered to enhance the safety of the way the game is played.
The NFL’s competition committee and the owners of the 32 teams have been in preliminary talks to eliminate kickoffs from the sport.
One of the main focuses of Roger Goodell’s tenure, as commissioner of the league, has been to increase safety measures within the game. The players are now fined, and/or suspended, for hits that would have been applauded in the days of the past. The hitting or striking zone of a defenseless receiver continues to get smaller and smaller. No longer are the times in which “woo hits” earned you an earn buck or two. I won’t be digging into the BountyGate scandal that is attached to that last statement. Perhaps at a later date I’ll shell out my opinion on BountyGate.
For now, let’s stick to the topic at hand.
Personally, being a former kickreturner and punt returner, in youth and highschool football, I think it would be a big mistake to eliminate one of the game’s most exciting plays. Some of my favorite moments in Super Bowl history were on kickoff returns.
Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff for six in the Super Bowl against the Indianapolis Colts. I remember thinking, prior to the kickoff, “there is no way he could take it to the house to start the game, is there?” And what do you know? Hester is throwing a house party in the endzone after the game’s opening play.
In Super Bowl 29, yeah, that one, San Diego’s Andre Coleman had one of the few highlights for the Chargers by returning a kickoff for a score.
In 2000, Jermaine Lewis, of the Baltimore Ravens, took a kickoff all the way back in their first Super Bowl in the team’s history.
Most recently, in Super Bowl 47, Jacoby Jones lit up the Superdome by taking the kick back 108 yards for an electrifying score. I, for one, was elated to see it happen again on the game’s biggest stage. With it’s occurrence, perhaps Goodell and company would see that it’s pros outweigh it’s cons.
But that’s the question at hand. Do the pros actually outweigh the cons?
The league has been on record saying that the the percentage of injuries incurred on kickoffs is far higher than on any other play in the game. Thus providing the necessary momentum to persuade the NFL to eliminate kickoffs for the forseeable future.
I am all for the safety of the players. I am also in favor of doing what it takes to help save the NFL game from what some consider to be it’s inevitable extinction.
I am not saying that the kickoff is what will eventually do the league in, if it’s not removed. If you couple that play with all of the concussion lawsuits, the poor quality of life for some players post career, and the recent CTE findings of the former Charger great Junior Seau, there is a chance that if drastic measures aren’t taken then the game could indeed fade into oblivion.
As much as I would like for the kickoff to continue to be a mainstay in the NFL, it is extremely difficult to argue against removing it. Especially if it means that we are allowed to continue to watch America’s true past time for the duration of our lives, our children’s lives, etc.
I haven’t heard any official word as to if, or when, there has been a date set to put this to a hard vote. When I do hear, I’ll be sure to keep the BoltBeat community informed.
Thanks a lot for reading.