One competition committee member says the kickoff might not be around much longer.
One member of the NFL’s competition committee says the league could be close to eliminating the kickoff.
Packers president Mark Murphy told reporters Wednesday that the kickoff could go away altogether if nothing is done to make it safer.
“We’ve reduced the number of returns,” Murphy said, according to ESPN, “but we haven’t really done anything to make the play safer.”
League data shows that players are five times more likely to get a concussion on a kickoff than any other sort of play, Murphy added.
“If you don’t make changes to make it safer, we’re going to do away with it,” Murphy warned. “It’s that serious. It’s by far the most dangerous play in the game.”
All levels of football have struggled with how to deal with this inherently dangerous play. In 2011, the NFL moved the spot of the kickoff forward from the 30-yard line to the 35, drastically increasing the number of kickoffs that cross into the end zone for touchbacks. The NCAA did the same thing in 2012, while also changing the spot of the ball on touchbacks from the 20-yard line to the 25. The NFL moved the touchback spot on kickoffs to the 25 in 2016.
The NCAA announced earlier this month that it was tweaking the kickoff further. A player on the receiving team can call for a fair catch between the goal line and the 25-yard line and the ball will be placed at the 25. That change was intended to combat the recent trend of high-arcing kicks designed to pin teams deep.
A drastic change to the NFL’s kickoff rule for 2018 sounds unlikely, but Murphy said a panel of coaches will meet in the coming weeks to discuss the play.