Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL [Print without images]

Saturday, August 13, 2011
Bears kick off 5 yards deeper than rule

By Jeff Dickerson
ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- NFL owners voted in the offseason to move kickoffs from the 30 to the 35-yard line. The Chicago Bears, however, continued to kickoff from the 30-yard line twice in the first half of Saturday night's preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills.

According to an NFL official seated in the press box, the Bears informed the officiating crew prior to the game they intended to kickoff from the 30-yard line at some point in the contest. Believing the spirit of the rule wasn't meant to prohibit teams from kicking off from a deeper spot on the field if they so desired, the crew granted the Bears permission to kickoff from the 30-yard line.

However, once NFL's vice president of officiating Carl Johnson was informed of the development, he placed a call to Soldier Field and told officials the Bears must kickoff from the 35-yard line. Johnson cited safety concerns as the reason behind the decision, according to the press box official.

There may be some validity to Johnson's claim; Bears defensive lineman Corey Wootton suffered a knee injury on the game's opening kickoff from the 30-yard line.

The Bears are believed to be one of the six teams that voted against the rule change at the NFL owners meetings in March.

Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.