While that may be so, in the case that it will clearly eliminate some kickoffs, I really think this was an unnecessary rule change.
This past Friday I went to the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Washington Redskins preseason opener at Fedex Field, and the first thing I noticed was that every single kickoff went in to the end zone, and about 95 percent of them were either too deep to return or sailed out of the ball of the end zone. One even came close to splitting the uprights.
Eliminating some kickoffs would have been a boost in player safety, because that way there would be less plays where 11 players are running full speed down the field hitting anything and everything in his path. But eliminating the element of the kickoff altogether is pretty much what this has turned in to.
Washington's kick returner Brandon Banks did make a very nice play on a kick that was five yards deep in the end zone, returning the ball to midfield for the Skins. But other than that, most kicks turned in to touchbacks.
Banks' lone kick return Friday night against Pittsburgh. This return, taken from deep in the end zone, went for 58 yards and was the only KO return of the game (from either team). The rest were touchbacks.
Of course this was the whole plan for Goodell, which is slowly but surely taking away from the game of football. I'm all for player safety, because that is what prolongs player's careers. But this isn't the answer. Taking away the running start that the kicking team (used) to be allowed, and making them line up five yards from the kicking tee was a good move. But creating more touchbacks? No way. And I'm sure kick returners are outraged by the change as well.
You've got to give Chicago Bears head coach (Lovie Smith) a hand for what he did in his team's preseason opener in Buffalo. The league wasn't happy, but I'm sure the other five teams that voted against the rule change were stoked to hear that Smith took a stand against the rule change.
League officials, of course, weren't too happy that Mr. Smith ignored the rule change and kicked from the 30-yard line on Saturday night. The officials didn't seem to catch on right away.
They were eventually simply told to stop doing it, by League officials, during the game, but I would like to point out that Lovie had a legitimate reason for doing it and wasn't just trying to show them up.
Smith was later quoted, saying "we weren't really getting a good evaluation on what we can do coverage-wise on some of our players. That's what we were trying to do with it" according to an NFL.com story.
Lovie Smith backs his return-man Hester when it comes to the league's rule change, moving the kickoffs up five yards to the 35-yard line.
It's clear teams are not in favor of the change, and I think what Smith did is the best way of protesting the new rule. No matter how wrong Smith was, I support his decision and hope the league gets the message. If there's enough protesting by teams, maybe the league will change the rule back for 2012...we could only hope.
I personally can't wait to hear Devin Hester speak out about this issue, should be interesting.
**Photos found on Google, no copyright infringement intended**