The idea first spread widely by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a Time artice to eliminate kickoffs completely was hatched originally by Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano.
In the plan, the team kicking off would instead get the ball on its own 30-yard line in a fourth-and-15 situation. It could elect to run an offensive play and go for a first down – the replacement for what is right now the onside kick – or punt.
The idea is to eliminate the violent, high-speed collisions there are on kickoffs. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Schiano’s idea was born after his Rutgers player Eric LeGrand was paralyzed covering a kickoff.
“I understand traditionalists who don't agree,” Schiano said. “But there used to not be the forward pass, too. And the game would be pretty boring without it. I'm not saying it's right or wrong. I'm saying you have to be able to think outside, and it's whatever's best for the player.
“At the end of the day, these guys are the ones who are putting it on the line. … I know it's a violent game and that's one of the things that I love about it is the physical part of it. But there's areas that are more susceptible to injury.”
It’s an intriguing idea but it would really change the complexion of the game and likely lead to increased scoring because teams would consistently begin with better field position. Rule changes to eliminate three- and four-man wedges have made kickoff returns safer and by moving kickoffs to the 35-yard line, touchbacks are more than double what they used to be, also eliminating plays where injuries are a risk.
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune