Eliminating kickoffs would hurt AFC North

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
4:00
PM ET
Browns returner Josh Cribbs doesn't like the possibility that the NFL will eliminate kickoffs, saying the game would be "just like intramurals." Cribbs can speak for the entire AFC North about that potential change.

Taking away kickoffs would hurt the division. All four primary kickoff returners in the AFC North rank in the top half of the NFL, including two in the top 10. The Ravens' Jacoby Jones (34.2-yard average) ranks second in the NFL in kickoff returns, and Cribbs (28.1) is eighth in the league. The Browns have the second-best kickoff coverage team in the league, and the Ravens hold teams to the eighth-best starting position following kickoffs (just over the 20-yard line).

But NFL commissioner Roger Goodell isn't worried about what is going to hurt teams on the field. His concern is protecting the money. The NFL could potentially lose billions in player lawsuits over concussions. The league determined most concussions occur on kickoffs.

If there weren't these lawsuits, the NFL wouldn't be considering replacing kickoffs. It's one of the most thrilling parts of the game. But the NFL is a business, and Goodell is in charge of that business. Getting rid of kickoffs would protect the league from potential earnings losses in the future. This could be the start of widespread changes in the NFL because of the emphasis on player safety.

Here's a strong recommendation to read the piece by ESPN's Jeffri Chadiha, who hits the reasons for and against kickoffs.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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