With the potential for touchbacks to rise considerably now that the NFL has moved kickoffs up from the 30 to the 35, Patriots coach Bill Belichick is convinced the league wants to eliminate kickoffs altogether.
"That’s what they told us,’’ Belichick told reporters yesterday. “I’m not speaking for anybody else. That’s what they told us, that they want to eliminate the play.’’
In a statement, the league disputed Belichick’s claim, saying, “That is not the goal. We are not aware of anyone representing the NFL that has made that statement.’’
Like all other coaches, Belichick is adjusting to the new rule, and said the makeup of his roster could be affected. In the Patriots' preseason opener against the Jaguars, only two of their eight kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.
“You’ve got to think about it,’’ Belichick said of roster moves that could be affected. "If, instead of covering 60 kickoffs in a year, you think you’re only going to be covering 30, then is that coverage player as important?
“Or on the flip side of it, in the return game, if you’re going to be returning 30 instead of 60, is what the guys who block on the kickoff return - or if you have a designated kickoff returner, if you think you’re going to be returning more punts than kickoffs . . . then maybe you put more of a priority on your punt returner than your kickoff returner, just as an example.’’