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Monday, April 16, 2012
On eliminating kickoffs

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

I didn’t protest the move of the kickoff from the 35 to the 30 and the resulting touchbacks.

I don’t find kick returns to be thrilling. I actually see them as a good time to jot off a tweet or make a bathroom run.

Still, I cannot envision the NFL without kickoffs.

It would be too giant a change to the fabric of the game. You can’t do away with a category of the game where a second of the record book gets frozen. Is the current all-time leading kick returner then locked in?

Would there be a parade for Brian Mitchell, who is the career leader in kickoff retuns (607) and kickoff return yards (14,014)? And for Gayle Sayers, who took his 75 returns a record average of 30.56 yards?

Grantland’s Bill Barnwell has some fun with this piece on alternatives to kickoffs, and how to keep alive the concept of the onsides kick.

Some of these ideas are clever, but they create new elements to the game that are unnatural. Awarding possession on the 20 after a touchdown and the 30 after a field goal is not the least bit organic. Do you want your kid or grandkid thinking that’s how football works? I don’t.

I’ve also missed the epidemic of concussions or injuries on kickoffs. I understand it’s an inherently dangerous play with the ground covered at great speed. For the league to sacrifice kickoffs in the name of increased safety also strikes me as artificial.

Any push that minimizes chances for concussions is a good thing, but in a sport that’s centrally about hitting, they’re going to happen. Most such moves are going to qualify as covering the NFL’s behind on the concussion and injury issue.

Let’s not be drastic in trying to cure something that can’t necessarily be fixed.