ATLANTA - AUGUST 19: Kicker Matt Bryant #3 of the Atlanta Falcons kicks an extra point while punter Michael Koenen #9 holds during the preseason game against the New England Patriots at the Georgia Dome on August 19 2010 in Atlanta Georgia. The Patriots beat the Falcons 28-10. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
For those of you who missed Jason Kirk newsifying this yesterday, the NFL did make a change to the kickoff rule.
Kick returners the league over have to be breathing a sigh of relief right now. Originally, the NFL Competition Committee was considering moving the tee up to the 35 yard line from the 30, making touchbacks come out of the end zone at the 25 and screwing around with blocking. All of that would have all but destroyed the return specialists we've come to know and love, including our own Eric Weems.
The end result isn't likely to please any of those guys, but it's certainly not as bad as it could've been. The committee ultimately decided only to move the tee up to the 35. That's going to lead to more touchbacks, no question, but Weems is still going to be mighty useful for his ability to take it downfield.
It does make it less likely that the Falcons will use him purely as a returner. Those of you who have been calling for Weems to get involved in the offense are probably going to get your wish, albeit in very limited fashion.
For kickers, it's a different sort of story. You want a strong-legged guy up there, but with the extra five yards there's slightly less of an emphasis on that. That could mean guys like Michael Koenen aren't being used for kickoffs any more, but I kind of doubt it. It's what he knows.
So in the final analysis, expect more touchbacks and less explosive returns, though it's far from a doomsday event. What's your take?