The most dangerous play in football is in danger itself. In a recent interview with the Washington Post, NFL commissioner and human potato Roger Goodell said the league is considering ways to make the kickoff safer, including "elimination."
"We won't take anything off the table, including the elimination. But we still think there are some changes that we can make that we'll continue to see progress in that area," he told the paper.
The NFL has been on a mission to reduce injuries on kickoffs for a few seasons now, but its plan doesn't seem to be working. It's early, but the new rule moving touchbacks to the 25-yard-line had little effect in week one. The rule was supposed to entice returners to take the touchback and not attempt a return. Instead, it's enticing kickers to leave the ball short of the end zone and force a return. They're not giving up those five yards without a fight.
Five years ago a different rule with the same goal went into effect. Kickoffs were moved up to the 35-yard-line in hopes of increasing touchbacks and reducing returns. That rule worked much better. In the year before the rule was instituted, 80 percent of all kickoffs were returned.Last year it was 41 percent.
Still, that number is probably too high becuase the kickoff is such a dangerous play. In Ivy League football, for example, the kickoff accounts for 23.4 percent of concussions despite accounting for only 5.8 percent of overall plays. Those brainiacs have decided to move the kickoff up to the 40-yard-line in an attempt to increase touchbacks.
But if the goal is to eliminate injuries on kickoffs there's clearly only one option here: Get rid of the kickoff all together. Don't expect it to happen in the NFL though. If Goodell has taught us anything during his tenure, it's that he only supports bad ideas and eliminating the kickoff is a good one.