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Will the NFL Abolish the Kickoff, Replace with a Punt?

Dec 6, 2012, 4:33 PM EDT

As NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell pushes an increasing
number of new rules designed in the name of player safety, the kickoff play has
become one of his prime targets. According to a report that appears in the December
17th edition of TIME magazine, it may be time to officially place it
on the endangered species list.

Over the past few years, changes have been implemented to
reduce the number and prevalence of kickoff returns in pro football, most
famously moving the spot of the kick up an additional five yards. That has
ensured a far higher percentage – close to half – of kicks wind up in the end
zone for touchbacks, eliminating many of the high impact collisions that have
been known to result in spine injuries.

But in his interview with TIME, Goodell for the first time
discussed a potential replacement for the kickoff altogether. We’ll let Pro
Football Talk
take it from here:

Sean Gregory of TIME writes that one of the options being
considered for replacing kickoffs entails giving the ball to the team that
would have been kicking off at its own 30, automatically facing a fourth down
and 15 yards to go.  The team can then
choose to punt or go for it, via fake punt or otherwise.

In other words, the kickoff would be replaced with the punt,
and the onside kick would be replaced with a fourth-down conversion roughly
half the distance of Ray Rice’s recent catch-and-run.

It’s an interesting idea. Turning the play into a punt keeps
the kicking factor alive, which has always played in a crucial role in the
game of football.

That’s probably about all I like about it.

Starting a team with 15 yards to go to reach a first down
seems like an arbitrary distance for one thing. On any other given play at the start
of a possession, it would be 10 yards – including an onside kick. Another issue
that springs to mind is how do you account for the possibility of a blocked
punt? That aspect of the punt play creates an unfair advantage for the return
team, no?

PFT is running a poll on their site where roughly 30% of
respondents think it’s a good idea, while 60% do not. 10% of the 50,000+ have
no opinion.

I understand kickoffs are dangerous, and I appreciate in
light of what we are continuing to learn about the sport’s long-lasting effects
on its athletes that the league needs to remain vigilant when it comes to finding ways to make the game
safer. Eventually, the kickoff play may need to be replaced or simply removed to achieve that end.

Call me a traditionalist, but I just think it will be a
shame when that happens, as it fundamentally changes the game in my opinion. When it does in fact finally happen though, I just
hope it’s not replaced by some shoddy gimmick.

>> Goodell floats novel idea for replacing kickoffs [PFT]