June 05, 2011

Rutgers Coach Wants to Replace Kickoffs: To improve player safety and reduce injuries like the one that paralyzed his player Eric LeGrand in 2010, Rutgers head football coach Greg Schiano wants to replace kickoffs. The scoring team would get the ball at its own 30 yard line on a 4th and 15 and could choose to punt or go for it. "It would lead to much less impact and fewer collisions, but it would still be a way to get the game started in similar field position," he said. "I don't think we'd lose that much, and we'd gain a bunch for the welfare of the players."

posted by rcade to football at 12:44 PM - 8 comments

Interesting. Not sure what I think of it, though. Is the injury rate on kickoffs that much higher than any other form of play?

posted by TheQatarian at 01:10 PM on June 05

Wow, really interesting idea. Two initial thoughts:

(1) Isn't punt coverage relatively dangerous as well? I could see how it might be less dangerous than kick-offs, but is the difference that great?

(2) This might give certain teams a huge advantage late in the game. If your team has a prolific aerial attack, your odds of converting a 4th and 15 are probably much greater than converting an onside kick. If you have a power running attack, like G-Tech for example, it would be much harder to convert.

Regardless of those two potential concerns, I think this would make the game more exciting. I would kind of like to see how this works.

posted by brainofdtrain at 01:24 PM on June 05

There was talk of returning the rule, I don't know if it did, but the CFL used to allow receiving teams the option to scrimmage from the 35. Since kicking off from the 35 would lead to more touchbacks, why not skip it and scrimmage from the 20?

The problem with that is it would take the opportunity for the receiving team to scrimmage deeper, or score, with a long kick return.

How about this idea: cut down on the pounds of equipment. We have helmets, which are supposed to reduce concussions, instead causing more because they're much heavier than a generation before. We have wall-like shoulder pads ... in essence, yes, players are bigger, stronger and faster, but they've become missiles with the heavy upper-body equipment.

Look back at the 1970's -- I don't recall as many injuries back then.

posted by jjzucal at 02:49 PM on June 05

Although for the kicking team, punt plays start from a standing snap rather than a running start as with kickoffs, punts travel a shorter distance so the kicking team can readily get downfield to cover the reception.

Maybe a good compromise would be to have kickoffs begin from an upright standing start so that the kicking team doesn't have quite the same full head of steam heading downfield to cover the kick. The kicking team wouldn't be able to start running until after the ball was away.

Or they could maybe do free kicks, similar to what is done after a safety has been scored.

As brain said, I think the injury potential is there with punts almost as much as kickoffs at least for the returner, because today's punters get so much height on their kicks that a returner can't keep his eyes on both the ball and the oncoming opponents and is not fully aware of the location and proximity of those players when he catches the punt.

Also, the punt is coming virtually straight down toward the receiver and he doesn't really have a decent opportunity to prepare himself for immediate contact. I've seen many punts where there was no fair catch but should have been and the receiver was leveled by an onrushing tackler a split second after he caught the punt.

posted by beaverboard at 03:11 PM on June 05

The problem is not injury to the punt/kick receiver, it is injury to the blocker. As someone who played alot of special teams, it was rare that I ever was hit harded during a game the the contact on kickoffs. I was a wedge breaker and basically got my bell rung most kickoffs and I was the one doing the hitting. You dont get a clean hit on the ball carrier very often, but the blockers get killed. On punts, no one has the chance to get that full head of steam.

posted by Debo270 at 09:52 AM on June 06

I'll use this time to say again what I've said numerous times: Take kicking out of the game completely. It's stupid. Kickoffs are unnecessary, and field goals and (kicked) extra points suck.

posted by dyams at 11:53 AM on June 06

and change the name to handball.

Seriously though, it is the repetitive sub-concussion headshots in games and practices that seem to be the long term health risk. Tackle all injuries but keep priorities in order.

posted by rumple at 12:18 PM on June 06

Next step - eliminate punching from boxing. Yeah that will make boxing a lot safer.

posted by Atheist at 02:59 PM on June 07

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