NFL kickoffs are doomed.
It wasn’t so long ago when the kickoff was one of the most exciting potential players in the NFL. Sure, a significant number of them ended in touchbacks, but the occasional 106-yard return electrified fans all across America. Unfortunately, the kickoff is destined to be canned by the NFL in the near future.
The League has already announced it will discuss adding additional safety measures to kickoffs in an upcoming summit in May. In part due to Ryan Shazier’s horrific injury last season, league officials are feeling increased pressure to increase player safety. The sheer physics of players running full speed at one another on kickoffs make it an obvious issue the NFL must address. League data shows that players are five times more likely to be injured on kickoffs than any other type of play.
The NFL insists it has no plans to discuss eliminating kickoffs entirely in May, but it’s not hard to see where things are going. The NFL’s decision to move the spot of kickoffs up to the 35-yard line back in 2011 just hasn’t done enough. There are still far too many serious injuries.
The challenge with the kickoff is there isn’t a clear way to make it safer while allowing it to retain its level of excitement. No fans are coming to NFL games to enjoy watching touchbacks. If the ability to return kicks is drastically reduced, there’s no real reason to have kickoffs at all.
In all honesty, the NFL could eliminate kickoffs this season and no one would really miss them. The majority of teams have already reduced the importance they put on kick returners. Most franchises have already moved to remove star players from their kick return teams to protect them from injury. Returners these days are largely backup wideouts who barely made the roster out of training camp.
NFL purists will try to keep the kickoff in the game for as long as they can, but it’s a dinosaur. Soon the play will be removed from the game altogether and in a few years, no one will miss it.