After serious lobbying by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, team owners voted Tuesday on a rule that "allows players to fair catch on kickoffs with the resulting possession beginning at the team's 25-yard line," according to NFL Network.
Since this rule was announced, NFL coaches have spoken out against it.
One of the more notable coaches to do so was reigning Super Bowl champion head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs.
"I don't know. We'll have to go through all that. My thing is, where does it stop, right? So you start taking pieces, and um, you know, we'll see how this goes, but you don't want to take too many pieces away, and you'll be playing flag football."
#Chiefs HC Andy Reid on the new fair catch rule for kickoffs: "My thing is, where does it stop, right? ... You don't want to take too many pieces away and you'll be playing flag football."
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) May 24, 2023
The new rule is the same as in college football. If a player catches a kickoff anywhere behind the 25-yard line after calling for a fair catch, it'll result in the ball being moved to the 25-yard line by default.
In past years, kickers would deliberately try not to kick touchbacks on kickoffs to force returners to bring the ball out and get downed before reaching the 25-yard line.
Now, if a player fields the ball anywhere behind the 25-yard line — 1-yard line, 5-yard line, 22-yard line, 24-yard line — and calls for a fair catch, the team will automatically start play at the 25-yard line.
The reason for this rule? According to the league, it's for — you guessed it — "player safety."
"The kickoff play for us has been a play that has had a lot of changes for us over the years, all really driven by health and safety," Rich McKay, chairman of the NFL's competition committee, told NFL Network's Judy Battista. "The concussion rate on the play has gone up. It's gone up because the ball is being returned more by kicks that are being hung inside the 5-yard line. College made this rule change in maybe 2018 or 2019. We looked at their data and said, you know what, this is the right thing to do now."
As pointed out by Warren Sharp of SharpFootballAnalysis.com, SportsGrid, The Ringer and NFL on Fox, the NFL may have player safety in mind here but has no issue allowing flexing to Thursday Night Football and eight teams playing five-plus games with a rest disadvantage.
the NFL: teams should be able to fair catch a kick behind the 25 & get it spotted at the 25 because player safety is vitally important
also the NFL: let's force 8 teams to play 5+ games at a rest disadvantage this yr for the first time in history + flex teams onto Thursday Night
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) May 23, 2023
According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, there were "12-14 no's in that room Monday," but a number of them flipped after Goodell lobbied the owners.
I'm told there were 12-14 no's in that room Monday. As we wrote last week, Bill Belichick, John Harbaugh and Dan Campbell supported the ST coaches' efforts, so no surprise their owners had their backs. Sean Payton was another who backed the STCs?Denver was one Goodell flipped.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) May 24, 2023
What do you think? Is Reid right? Are we headed toward flag football-like conditions in the NFL?
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