If the NFL is so afraid of the impact kick returns have on injury statistics, the league should consider taking a bold route and removing the play from the game entirely.
In another attempt to decrease returns, the league passed a rule on Wednesday which moves touchbacks to the 25-yard line, but officials admit that change could backfire if kicking teams react by kicking short of the end zone in order to force returners to bring kicks back.
But why even attempt to keep tinkering? If you truly believe that returns are causing more injuries, why risk keeping a play that rarely impacts the game? Injuries — particularly those to the head — are the greatest threat to professional football right now, so anything that will help decrease them is a step worth considering.
When you think about it, it’s rather strange that the NFL recently moved extra points back in order to make them more competitive, yet here they are trying to make kickoffs insignificant. Frankly, neither play is imperative these days. So why bother? Focus on plays that take place on downs and you’ll have a healthier league without making much of a sacrifice.
- Only 2.7 percent of last year’s NFL games featured kickoff return touchdowns
- A total of 0.3 percent of all returns were taken back for scores
- Only 1.0 percent of all returns gained 50 or more yards
- Only 8.6 percent of all returns gained 30 or more yards
In other words, the vast, vast, vast majority of returns put teams somewhere between the 20- and 30-yard line. By eliminating kickoffs and just giving teams the ball at the 25, you’d eliminate a ton of injuries and only a handful of big plays (some of which would be replaced by big plays from scrimmage).
So stop pussyfooting, NFL, and just scrap kickoffs. It’s clear you’re heading in that direction anyway.