ATLANTA - OCTOBER 03: Kicker Matt Bryant #3 of the Atlanta Falcons walks off the field after kicking the game-winning field goal in the final seconds against the San Francisco 49ers at Georgia Dome on October 3 2010 in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Could the NFL put a stake right in the heart of kickoffs down the line? You may think that's a preposterous question, but apparently it's being discussed at the highest levels of the league.
New York Giants president John Mara discussed the lack of hue and cry over 2011's kickoff rule changes, which he said stems from the fact that the league has a plethora of crazy offensive teams right now. Given that, he hints that it's not entirely far-fetched to think that the kickoff may go the way of the dinosaurs some day:
Mara can envision a day when a far more radical change is made and NFL games are played without kickoffs.
"We had a lot of discussions about whether we should eliminate it and if we did what we could do in its place," he said. "There’s no consensus on it right now, but I could see the day in the future where that play could be taken out of the game.
"You see it evolving toward that. Nobody would go that far now, but we talk about different blocks that we can outlaw. The problem is that the concussions come from everywhere, from the wedge, from the crossing blocks where a guy goes from one side of the field to another, from a full speed collision between a return guy and a tackler. So there’s no one thing that you can do. It’s something that we’ll continue to watch as closely as possible."
Look, I love kickoffs. There's always the sense that anything can happen, that one good block could spring a returner and bring the crowd to their feet. Occasionally, we get lucky enough to see that. And I think special teams is a great proving ground for players who otherwise would have a hard time justifying their roster spots. Take away kickoffs and you're taking away a living or a step up for more than a few players. A good kicker can also give you field position that would be impossible to earn otherwise.
At the same time, the game would survive without them. The trick would be how to replace them. Would you just give a team the ball on the 20 every time, knowing that it would make things harder for defenses and curtail overall yardage to some degree? I imagine that wouldn't be perceived as a very elegant solution.
Whatever dark hints Mara's throwing out, I don't see this happening in the next few years. The NFL and its owners would have to sell players and the public on it first, and that would take time. Just don't count on it never happening.
What do you think?