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Roger Goodell Discusses the Elimination of Traditional Kickoffs in TIME

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TIME Magazine

In the latest edition of TIME, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talked about a variety of topics, such as the recent tragedy in Kansas City, player safety, and the future of the game. Regarding the future of the game, Goodell brought up a proposal that came along that would, in essence, eliminate kickoffs and replace them with a convoluted alternative.

On the pro level, Goodell is still exploring changes to the game. Kickoffs seem especially vulnerable, which won’t please many fans, since they have the potential to deliver excitement. In a recent meeting with Atlanta Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay, head of the NFL’s competition committee, Goodell brought up an idea promoted by Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano: After a touchdown or field goal, instead of kicking off, a team would get the ball on its own 30-yard line, where it’s fourth and 15. The options are either to go for it and try to retain possession or punt. If you go for it and fall short, of course, the opposing team would take over with good field position.

In essence, a punt replaces the kickoffs. "The fact is," Goodell said during the meeting, "it’s a much different end of the play." Punts have lower injury rates because the players bunch at the line of scrimmage and run down the field together toward the player making the return. They don’t charge at each other as they do on kickoffs, which reduces opportunities for violent smashes. "It’s an off-the-wall idea," says Goodell. "It’s different and makes you think differently. It did me."

I could see something like this being intriguing for some upstart league (i.e. remember back to the days of the XFL?), but this would be too drastic of a change for the NFL. Think about how drastically it would change the outcomes of games -- it's tough enough to prevent a rally by a quarterback like Peyton Manning. If a team like Denver was down two possessions, instead of trying an onside kick to get back in the game, they can send Manning out to try to throw for 15+ yards on one play. The elite quarterbacks can pick that up with a higher percentage than onside kick conversions I imagine.

Yes, this proposal would prevent the brutal collisions that kickoffs sometimes result in. At some point, you still have to recognize that these guys are paid to do what they are doing and player safety is up to chance. Not allowing contact on quarterbacks would protect them too, but it'd also make the game unwatchable.

What do you think about this "off-the-wall idea," as Goodell put it? Does it sound compelling to you, or do you hope it never reaches serious consideration at the owners' meetings?