Breer: NFL Fair Catch Rule Proposal Meeting Opposition From Players And Coaches

One of the NFL’s proposed rules has come under opposition in recent weeks, with Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reporting yesterday that players and coaches have teamed up to kill the rule proposal that would allow for fair catches inside the 25-yard line to be ruled as touchbacks.

The rule will be voted on during the Spring League Meeting in late May, with the intended purpose to reduce concussions on kickoffs. However, players and coaches have argued that the rule could actually end up leading to more concussions. One of the arguments players and coaches are making is that if teams fair catch every kickoff inside the 25, the opponents could send squib kicks or low line drive kicks which would lead to potentially dangerous situations and more concussions. Additionally, only one kick returner suffered a concussion last year, while 99.3% of kickoffs were concussion free. 19 concussions were suffered on kickoffs last season, but the NFL is arguing that data shows concussions are two times more likely on kickoffs than traditional run/pass plays.

Among those who oppose the rule change are New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell, and Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton. Payton and Belichick both certainly have sway among their peers, which could make getting the 24 necessary votes to enact the rule change tough.

The NFL wants to make a show that they care about player safety, and enacting this rule would, on paper, make it look as if that was the case. But the players and coaches who would be involved in the play itself seem to view the rule change as potentially creating more dangerous situations and putting players even more at risk. The NCAA put the rule in place in 2018 and squib kicks were reduced, something the NFL is making a part of their argument, but ultimately players and coaches believe the disparity between college and NFL players negates that argument.

Now, what appeared to be one of the more mundane rule changes on the surface becomes an interesting vote. If the players and special teams coaches around the league, who had a meeting with at least one special team from each team earlier this week about killing the proposal, convince enough owner’s the rule is bad for the game and player safety, it may struggle to get the 24 necessary votes. But there are also probably enough owner’s out there who believe a rule focused on reducing concussions and player safety is good for the game and protecting the shield, so it’s a vote that will likely come down to the wire later this month.

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