In its continued effort to make the game of football safer, the NFL is considering some drastic rule changes. According to NFL VP of Football Operations Troy Vincent, that includes potentially eliminating kickoffs in the not-so-distant future.
“We talked about it at length, yesterday, frankly all over the weekend. When you just look at the medical data — and I would tell you the team of Jeff Miller and Dr. Seals — the data we now collect, with the data, the research, the science, the video tying all those things together,” Vincent said on The Dan Patrick Sow (h/t CBS Sports).
The idea in general makes a ton of sense. Kickoffs have proven to cause injuries at a larger clip than regular on-field action in recent seasons. The data that Vincent references here points to that.
Though, there’s a bit of a mixed message being sent our way on this from the NFL itself.
“As you know, I’m a traditionalist, and many of us in the room are traditionalists,” Vincent said. “There are three phases of the game, offense, defense and special teams. To just think about the removal of not having that kickoff return part of the game, there’s resistance. But we understand we’re at a place — college football is adjusting, high school, at the Pee Wee level. We are going to address some of those issues that we see in the kickoff.”
The issue here is just how this new rule would impact players and rosters around the league. A ton of players in the league make 53-man rosters simply because of their prowess in covering kickoffs.
New England Patriots veteran special teamer Matthew Slater is the biggest example of this. Technically seen as a wide receiver, Slater has caught a grand total of one pass in his career. Despite this, he’s been in the league a decade and has earned seven Pro Bowl invites. Heck, he’s earned a cool $14.1 million in his career and was just re-signed by New England for two years.
Obviously, there will be some pushback from the NFLPA and its members regarding any type of rule change that limits rosters to core offensive and defensive players.
Still, it’s an intriguing thought.