While discussing his spot on a panel that will discuss possible changes to kickoffs in the NFL, former Bills special teams ace Steve Tasker said he believes the league will ultimately come up with an alternative to a play that’s been linked to a high rate of injuries.
The league took a step to curtail kickoff returns by moving touchbacks to the 25-yard-line a few years ago and the NCAA has adopted a rule this year setting the ball at the same spot after fair catches inside the 25 in a pair of moves that seem to support Tasker’s feeling about a trend toward eliminating kickoffs altogether. Patriots special teamer Matthew Slater sees the same trend and doesn’t like it.
Slater said Tuesday that he understands the desire to make the game safer for players and acknowledged his own bias toward keeping things as they are given the role he plays in the NFL, but called kickoffs part of the “fabric of the game” while strongly disagreeing with attempts to take it away.
“To take away the kickoff, I really think it would be tragic,” Slater said in comments distributed by the team. “I really think, like I said, you’re changing the fabric of the game that we all love to cover, report on, that we love to play, coach, and I think it’s very disheartening to continue to have this brought up. I understand, look, people are concerned with the long-term health and safety of the players. But as I said, no one’s more concerned than the men that are actually out there doing it, and if we’re OK doing it, I don’t understand why we have to continue to look for alternatives, continue to push. Those are just my thoughts on it. As you can tell, I feel strongly about it and would love to continue that dialogue throughout the course of the season.”
Slater pointed to plays like short yardage attempts that illustrate that football is always going to be a “violent sport” and wondered what might happen next if the kickoff were to go the way of video rental stores. Many others have raised the same concerns, but that hasn’t put the brakes on moves that threaten its future in football.