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Monday, March 21, 2011
How kickoff rule would affect Sproles

By Bill Williamson

San Diego coach Norv Turner said in an interview on ESPN the proposed kickoff rule change would hurt a team with an established kick returner. That’s true, of course. But it’s interesting that Turner is thinking that way.

San Diego has return standout Darren Sproles, who is also a running back. He is a free agent and he may be difficult for the Chargers, who have several potential free agents, to keep. The Chargers also think highly of running backs Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert, who is likely going to be a restricted free agent.

Sproles has made more than $13 million in the past two years. He likely won’t average more than $6 million a year in a deal with any team. If the proposed rule passes, Sproles value in both San Diego and around the league could take a hit. The proposed rule is to move the kickoff from the 30 to the 35. Touchbacks will result in the ball being placed at the 25 instead of the 20. The rules are proposed to cut down on injuries on kickoffs because of the violent high-speed collisions.

However, some coaches at the NFL owners meeting in New Orleans on Monday have been critical of the proposal, although they don't have a vote.