With all the bad press the NFL has gotten in the past year or two – from the backlash over player protests to the growing concern over concussions – it seems like an added emphasis on safety could provide a public relations boost.
Of course, the NFL has been exploring more safety options, obviously for the protection of players most of all, but I can imagine that the optics of safer football is in the minds of league officials too.
This week, the NFL is looking at mandating ways to make kickoffs safer or getting rid of them altogether, according to media reports.
Injury rates on NFL kickoffs remain so high that the league's competition committee will give a mandate: Make the play safer, or the committee will recommend its elimination in the near future.
At this week's owners meetings, the league's medical department presented statistics showing that concussions are five times as likely to happen on kickoffs as on an average play, according to Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy -- who is a member of the competition committee.
This is one of many ideas the league is undertaking following a report from Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, calling for action after an astonishing 291 concussions in 2017. Recent rule changes moving touchbacks to the 25-yard line, thus making them a more appealing option, haven’t helped. Concussions are still happening on touchback plays at an alarming rate.
Kickoffs can create some exciting moments in games, but are they worth jeopardizing the safety of players for? I balked back in 2014 when there was talk of getting rid of the extra point after touchdowns, but in this case, I can’t help but think that the league needs to do something to stem the tide of career-ending and life-altering concussions.
What can they do to make kickoff safer? That remains to be seen, but here’s hoping there’s some way that the NFL can find a way to do before getting rid of them altogether.