By Tim Valencia, Inland Empire Kicking Coach
With the current Labor negotiations being at the forefront of almost NFL topics, a news story that will have a huge impact next season next year is the New Kickoff Rule.
The new Rule is placing the Kickoff starting point before 1994, back at the 35 yard line. The perceived reason behind this is to limit the amount of injuries that would occur on the long kickoffs. By shortening the distance, of kicks, that means more touchbacks and less returns. Less returns means less high speed collisions, less collisions less injuries.
The vote was near unanimous of the 26-6 coaches vote.
This rule change will not only effect the injuries of return men, but more importantly kickers.
Last year 16% of all kickoffs were touchbacks. Out of 32 NFL kickers only one had the distance to average a touchback, Billy Cundiff. If their averages stay the same 15 more kickers will be distance will average a touchback.
You don’t have to look far to get the opinion of the return men on twitter.com
For the kicker perspective you have turned to the right place. This rule will change drastically the scope for kickers. In my estimation, kickers with extremely strong legs won’t be of the most importance as most kickers will be able to reach the endzone. More emphasis will be placed on accuracy and technique.
The whole scope for kickoff strategy could now be changed. Distance will now give way to hang time and direction, kickoffs will become more and more like Coffin Corner Punts with the intent of fair catching or pining them inside the 20. This change will not only help kickers prolong the career but might cut short some kickers whose specialty is having a strong leg.
Simply, this rule change should have more of an impact other than upset return specialists venting on twitter.
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