As college football continues to make the game safer by tweaking kickoff rules, the NFL may follow suit.
Per NFL.com’s Judy Battista, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent recently revealed that while the league will not eliminate kickoffs in 2018, it will consider modifying the rules.
Last month, the NCAA approved a new rule that would allow players to signal for fair catches anywhere inside the 25-yard line and have it result in touchbacks. Back in 2012, college football looked to encourage touchbacks by moving kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35 and also place touchbacks at the 25-yard line rather than the 20.
The NFL had moved kickoffs up five yards in 2011 and reported a 43 percent decline in concussions on kickoffs the following season.
“Most concussions are happening somewhere else, but kickoffs was one that they felt, I presume, that it was pretty easy to target,” Edgeworth Economics senior vice president Jesse David told the Associated Press in 2012 (h/t NFL.com). “And it looks like the rule did what it was supposed to do.”
As more rules are put in place to try to limit full-speed collisions on kickoffs, there has been speculation that it is only a matter of time before kickoffs are eliminated from football completely. The NFL has already taken the play out of the Pro Bowl.
Back at the NFL owners meeting in March, the league’s medical department, via ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, provided research that showed concussions are five times more likely to occur on kickoffs than on any other play in football. That has Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy looking for a change in order to protect the players.
“If you don’t make changes to make it safer, we’re going to do away with it,” Murphy said, per Seifert. “It’s that serious. It’s by far the most dangerous play in the game.”
Vincent doesn’t believe kickoffs will be eliminated by next season, but fans should be on the lookout for rule changes as the league emphasizes player safety.