This week, the NFL adopted a new kickoff rule that will allow teams to call for a fair catch on kickoffs even if caught prior to the end zone. Teams will then be awarded the ball on their own 25-yard line or wherever the fair catch is made, whichever is further up field. The idea behind the rule change is that it would increase player safety by essentially lowering the amount of returns—which the NFL claims is the most dangerous play in football.
Per several reports, this was a widely unpopular rule proposal among coaches. In fact, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that special teams coaches unanimously were against the rule change.
Regardless, owners pushed through the proposal this week, and Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell was not happy about it. When asked about the new rule change on Thursday, Campbell got angry in a way we don’t typically see out of the energetic coach.
“I’m highly frustrated. It’s very frustrating,” Campbell sadi. “But look, I don’t make the rules. That’s the new rule and then we’ll live by the new rule. We’ll find a way to adjust, adapt, and still get what we want. That’s what you’ve got to do. But I hate that we continue to take away from the game.”
Campbell’s concern seems to be that this rule change is chipping away at the very nature of the game of football. He warned that if the NFL continued down this path, we may not recognize the game in a few years.
“That’s what really worries me, that we just, we continue to bleed this league (dry),” Campbell said. “If we’re not careful, it’s not going to replenish at one point.”
Interestingly enough, special teams coordinator Dave Fipp downplayed the rule change, saying he doesn’t believe it will change the kickoff all that much.
“Honestly, I don’t think it’ll change the game a whole lot, so I’m different than some of these people,” Fipp said. “I think what the numbers say is the shorter the kick or the further out it is for the return team—like the 10-yard line. If the ball is kicked to the 10, I think the data says you should return it. So I think we’re still going to see a lot of returns.”
Fipp also had a completely different outlook than Campbell about the future of the league. He rejected the notion that the NFL is trying to take away special teams.
“I really don’t believe that,” Fipp said. “I don’t think that’s what they’re trying to do, I think they’re trying to make the game safer.
Fipp even went as far as saying that he believes the league is headed down a better path.
“I think over the last handful of years, the league’s been incredible about (safety),” Fipp said. “They’ve done a great job making the game safer for the players. I think it’s a better game than it was. It’s definitely different, but I think for the most part they’ve done a great job and I trust what they’re doing.”
The rule change is a one-year trial, so we’ll see how it goes and the league will decide next year if it was a success or if something else needs to be done.