x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

NFL erring on the side of too cautious with kick-offs

In an effort to curtail high-speed impacts on kick-off returns, the NFL has moved the kick-off line up five yards in an effort have more touchbacks than returns, forgetting that american football is, after all, a contact sport.

In its zeal to legislate more player safety into the sport, the NFL went overboard with one rule change. Overboard by a distance of five yards.

Teams will kick off from the 35-yard line, no longer from the 30. The idea is to curtail high-speed collisions by reducing the number of kick-off returns.

The league is justified in its efforts to curb injuries, but this move smacks of fence-sitting. If kick offs are so dangerous, do away with them altogether.

That, suspects Bill Belichick, the New England coach, is the ultimate goal.

"That's what they told us," he said. "They want to eliminate the play."

Then, why do it gradually?

From a spectator standpoint, the new rule will harm a game's pace. A touchdown or field goal is followed by a commercial break, which is briefly interrupted by a kick off, then often succeeded by another commercial break.

An exciting kick off interrupts the monotony. A kick off that goes into the end zone and is not returned will only add to it.

After a score, you might as well skip to the concession stand for replenishments. It could be awhile before action resumes.

Last season, 84 per cent of kick offs were returned. In three weeks of pre-season games this year, 59 per cent were returned.

Cleveland's Josh Cribbs, a master at kick returns, said, "The intention is good, but the [injury] stats aren't there to back up the reasoning."

This rule takes some of the foot out of football. The NFL should kick it to the curb.

sports@thenational.ae