Report: NFL Plans to Talk Future of the Kickoff in Player Safety Summit Meeting

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 23, 2018

A football sits on a tee for kickoff for the Detroit Lions-St. Louis Rams NFL football game in Detroit,  Sunday, Oct. 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

The NFL will reportedly address the future of the kickoff play during a May 1 and 2 summit meeting at league headquarters in New York.

Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com reported the news, noting the "kickoff has long been a source of concern for NFL medical staffs," especially after the NFL's competition committee received data in March highlighting the fact concussions are five times more likely to happen on kickoffs than other plays.

Seifert noted there was a league-record 291 diagnosed concussions during the 2017 campaign.

"If you don't make changes to make it safer, we're going to do away with it" Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy said of the kickoff, per Seifert. "It's that serious. It's by far the most dangerous play in the game."

While the data suggests eliminating the play would cut down on concussions, there is also the notion that some players only see the field on special teams. Eliminating the kickoff would directly impact their livelihoods, and some have voiced their opinions about a future without kickoffs.

Michael Thomas of the New York Giants posted a video on Twitter suggesting players can protect themselves during kickoffs and calling the danger "a false narrative":

Michael Thomas @Michael31Thomas

Stop spreading the false narrative that “kickoff” is a dangerous play. So many other ways to protect players on the field. So many other ways to shorten the game to help viewership. Be real about this objective, and how many families will be effected... https://t.co/2bFQLcsgMb

Zack Cox of NESN shared comments from Matthew Slater of the New England Patriots in which he said doing away with kickoffs would be a tragedy:

Zack Cox @ZackCoxNESN

Matthew Slater gave a long and passionate response today on why the NFL should not get rid of kickoffs. Said it would be “tragic” and called the push to do so “disheartening.” https://t.co/G5WmTHHRxU

The concern at the NFL level comes after the NCAA approved a change in kickoff rules for the 2018 campaign. According to Greg Johnson of NCAA.org, kickoffs will automatically be deemed touchbacks if the returner calls a fair catch inside the 25-yard line, which minimizes the incentive to return deep kickoffs and theoretically will lead to fewer returns.

Despite the meeting, Seifert noted "there is no indication that the kickoff could be eliminated for this season" in the NFL.


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