This is SO stupidly off topic to The Pour Fool that I can’t even really justify to myself the fact of it being here.
But the idea will not let me alone.
There are several current proposals afloat within NFL circles to do something to minimize the danger to players of injuries suffered within that most violent eight to ten second in all of sports: the returning of kick-offs. It’s a scenario ripe for injury: a smaller player, desperate to make his name with the team, the league, and the fans, catches a kick-off four yards deep in the end zone and comes blasting out at full speed, racing toward ten guys intent on knocking his head off. It really IS as dangerous as alarmists make it out to be and just saying, “Well, that’s football!” in a jaunty tone really doesn’t cut it in the face of life-long effects of concussions. There have been a LOT of proposals put forth on how to deal with what looks increasingly like the total loss of that eight – ten seconds, which is also one of the most exciting moments in sports. Most say that, eventually, kick-offs will just be banned.
I think there’s another possibility and I haven’t heard anybody discuss it:
The main way that players are injured on kick-offs is by the traffic and confusion that’s present when you have ten of your own players and eleven opponents, all choking up the returner’s field of vision. Most serious injuries do not come from head-on collisions and even those which do almost always happen because the returner’s view of the field was obstructed and an opposing player came”out of nowhere” to crash into the runner at full speed. Those debilitating injuries – not just head injuries but ACL tears and broken bones and spinal damage – come from blind-side hits that the players could not possibly avoid. With ten guys masking the returner’s field of vision, it’s entirely possible to pop a guy with no warning and with NO chance that he’ll even see it coming.
My proposal is simple: Fewer Players, Fewer Injuries…
The kicking team, in my version, consists of four coverage people and one kicker. When the ball is kicked, the kicker immediately leaves the field and cannot participate in any of the play’s results. The receiving team consists of a returner and three defenders. This removes 60% of the field of vision clutter that produces blind-side hits. It doesn’t decrease the element of strategy at all and, in fact, allows for more drama. In the suggestion of getting rid of kick-offs altogether is the reality that one of the most valuable tools in any coach’s fourth-quarter strategy would be eliminated: The On-Sides Kick.
The on-sides kick is absolutely vital to the idea of making those epic come-backs that produce the sorts of finishes like Seahawks Vs. Packers in the NFC Championship Game in 2014. It’s an irreplaceable part of the come-back strategy and maybe the most dramatic ten seconds in football. In my proposal, the on-sides kick takes on new dimensions: with only eight men on the field, coaches for the kicking team CANNOT just line up their four men twenty yards from the kicking team. There’s a very real possibility that the ball – which only has to travel ten yards to be up for grabs – could be kicked past the front line of the receiving team and covered – or returned for a touchdown – by the kicking team. It makes that moment MORE exciting and dramatic and keeps alive the possibility of the thrilling last-second come-back.
There are dozens of new strategic possibilities in play in this scenario and it will be far less dangerous for the players involved because the field vision is vastly simplified and lets players see who’s coming, so that blind-side collisions can be avoided about 90% of the time.
I decided to post this here because it’s easier to post a link for football writers and league officials to follow to read this and I’m hoping that I get some direct fan feedback here. I hope, if you think this is a reasonable, workable alternative to losing the kick-off altogether and would, in fact, make the game MORE exciting, you’ll share it with any football fans you know. There’s a very real possibility that somebody has already thought of this but, if so, I haven’t heard or read about it and I’ve been looking HARD.
Thanks for reading. My motivation here in basic: I’m a huge football fan and I don’t want to see the game I love diluted to glorified flag football when there’s a reasonable solution at hand.