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Kickoff could be on its way out

Dec. 6, 2012
 

The idea that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell floated Thursday suggests that one way or another, the kickoff might not be in the NFL much longer.

Goodell told a reporter from TIME magazine that the league is considering eliminating the kickoff for player-safety reasons, and one of the alternatives is giving the ball to the kickoff team at its 30-yard line facing a fourth-and-15. The team can try to convert the first down, punt the ball or run a fake punt.

The idea is to eliminate the high-speed collisions of a kickoff but still give the kickoff team a chance to get back the ball, like it has under current rules with an onside kick.

When asked if he thinks the kickoff likely will be gone soon, Packers special teams coach Shawn Slocum said: “I think that there is a continued effort to protect the players, and I think that most of the rules in this game are continually evaluated in that regard. As we move forward, there are very likely to be some changes in the way we do it.”

Such a change would put a much greater emphasis on the punting game, among other things.

“It would change the game quite a bit,” Slcoum said. “I think there’s some things that will be different. I think the field position will change. Punting the ball will be less predictable than a kickoff in terms of the flight of the ball. I haven’t had a chance to really digest it all, but I think it would definitely have an effect on the game.”

There was no indication if any punting rules on the play would change, such as whether a team could punt the ball out of bounds to prevent a return. A kickoff that goes out of bounds is a penalty that gives the receiving team the ball at its 40.

“It would change the coaches’ decision-making and stuff like that,” said Tim Masthay, the Packers’ punter. “I don’t know how it works with out of bounds. Could you try to punt towards the sideline? To me, it sounds like it would just add more punt plays. That’s all it sounds like to me – adds more punt plays and gives the offense a better chance of setaling a series in must-onside kick situations. Because it’s probably going to be tougher to execute a must-onside than an offensive play (on fourth-and-15).

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