Year by year, seemingly, the way that the game of football looks on the field is slowly but surely being altered. The NFL looks different if you drop into any particular game than it did a decade ago, and the games from a decade ago resemble a game different from the game played a decade before, and so on and so forth.
More and more, however, the changes in the way that the game looks on the field is coming less as a result in a shifting and innovation in schematic philosophies and more as a result in the rules that govern the manner in which the game is played.
Who knew that football could get so existential as to need a committee to determine what a catch is? it seems a concept that is rather intuitive, and yet they managed to quite botch their last attempt at defining it, only to create a new one that will no doubt have its own host of problems.
Many believe that the biggest change to the way the game appears on the field in recent years just came down from the Annual League Meeting when a rule was passed that makes it a foul for any player on the field to lower his helmet and initiate and make contact with another player using the helmet. Details are still being sorted out, but some hits will result in ejections.
While the football purists are gnashing their teeth over that, they should brace for the stripping away of an entire facet of the game pretty soon, which could be the elimination of the kickoff altogether. While the league has attempted to improve the safety of the play in numerous ways over the years, it remains a danger, and that danger could result in it being abolished outright.
During the meetings, the owners voted to make permanent the rule that allows touchbacks on kickoffs to be taken out to the 25-yard line, which theoretically incentivizes teams to accept more touchbacks on kickoffs.
The reason that the league is so urgently exploring how to curb this aspect of the game is because their own medical research finds that kickoffs are five times more likely to produce a concussion than other plays, which, needless to say, is substantial.
Green Bay Packers President Mark Murphy signaled the warning at the conclusion of the Annual League Meeting, telling reporters that if they can’t make the play safer, then “we’re going to do away with it. It’s that serious. It’s by far the most dangerous play in the game”.
“We’ve reduced the number of returns”, he said, “but we haven’t really done anything to make the play safer”.
Murphy said that players still suffered concussions on kickoffs that actually resulted in touchbacks, which seriously undermines the idea that you can make the play safer simply by increasing the frequency of touchbacks. The only thing really left to do beyond that, within reason, is to remove the play altogether.
Sorry, Roosevelt Nix. Sorry, Vince Williams. Guys like you are going to have a much harder time cracking the 53-man roster for the first time without the opportunity to create tone-setting hits on kickoffs.