With the new rule, if a player asks for a fair catch on a kickoff, the ball will be placed at the 25-yard line
The NFL owners are approving this Tuesday a new fair-catch rule which will impact kickoffs. Now, according to the new rules, any player could ask for a fair-catch on kickoffs if they are behind the 25-yard line and this would automatically position the ball at the 25-yard line. This is going to have a one-year testing period during the upcoming season and is already generating controversy. Let’s understand why.
What is changing
Until these days, it is not very common to see fair-catches during kickoffs. They are way more common on punts. And there is no reason in the rules book for that, it is just a matter of strategy. If a player asks for a fair-catch during a kick, the next play starts on that exact spot.
Now this is going to change. During kickoffs, the touchback remains as is. If the ball goes out of the field through the endzone, the ball is dead and placed at the 25-yard line. However, if the ball stays out of the endzone, players will have the opportunity to don’t return the kick and have the same outcome (ball on the 25-yd-line).
This is already causing controversy between the league and special team coaches and players. Check out what are their versions of this change.
According to the league, this new rule is going to decrease the number of kick returns in 7%. Still according to them, this would lead to a 15% drop in kickoff returns related concussions. “The kickoff play has the highest rate of concussion every single year. We can’t stand by and do nothing. Sitting still and continuing to do nothing was unacceptable,” says the league.
Special Teams Players/Coaches
The new rule was not very well accepted by special teams players, and especially by the coaches. According to them, the league expectations are unreal and this new rule will only lead to more contusions because the teams are going to try to take advantage of the rules and create a series of unusual kicks, leading to unpredictable situations.
One player spoke to the New York Daily News before the approval of the rule. See their arguments:
“Coaches and players found that 11 of the 19 concussions on kickoffs last season happened when a return man took the ball out of the end zone, a play that wouldn’t be prevented by this new rule. They say only one of last year’s 19 kickoff concussions happened to a returner: the Packers’ Keisean Nixon.
And special teams coaches actually believe players could find themselves in just as many dangerous and unpredictable situations if not more based on how teams may adjust to the new rule.
Seeking an edge wherever they can find one, some special teams coordinators might resort more to squibbed and knuckled kicks that could set off unfamiliar and awkward collisions.”