With the NFL at least considering the idea of eliminating kickoffs, a proposal that commissioner Roger Goodell mentions in this week's Time magazine, the Giants and Jets seem to believe that the rules are just fine the way they are now.
"I think it's a good part of the game," Giants special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said of kickoffs. "I think kicking off from the 35 has decreased the number of injuries. We continue to see that trend."
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Domenik Hixon was a kickoff returner in the past, and also was involved in one of the catastrophic injuries that the league is trying to eliminate with new rules. In 2007, Hixon, then a rookie with the Broncos, hit Bills tight end Kevin Everett on a kickoff. Everett suffered a fracture and dislocation of his cervical spine that his doctors characterized as "life-threatening'' the day after the injury. They said it was likely to leave him with permanent neurological impairment. Although he did regain the ability to walk, Everett never played football again.
"How safe can you really make the game? I guess that's the question that I would have,'' Hixon told Newsday when told of the proposal. "Eventually you would almost have a flag football league. Injuries are going to happen. They're trying to prevent them, which is obviously good. But you eliminate that, you're going to eliminate a lot of jobs, too, for sure."
The latest proposal, which is in the Time article, was promoted by Bucs coach Greg Schiano.
From the article: "After a touchdown or field goal, instead of kicking off, a team would get the ball on its own 30-yard line, where it's fourth-and-15. The options are either to go for it and try to retain possession, or punt. If you go for it and fall short, the opposing team would take over with good field position. In essence, punts would replace kickoffs, and punts are less susceptible to violent collisions than kickoffs."
"That's interesting," Hixon conceded. "It definitely becomes a different strategy for sure."
Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff doesn't want to see kickoffs eliminated.
"I like the kickoffs, I just believe in them," Westhoff said. "I know the collision part and I think that's something you have to be careful of. But I think if you teach it the right way, it can be done properly."
Westhoff said he and Mike Pereira, the former NFL vice president of officiating and current rules analyst for Fox Sports, wrote a rule proposal last season aimed at eliminating blocking in the back by the kicking team.
"The kickoff team can smack the blockers in the back. It's legal,'' Westhoff said. "My thing is when's it ever good to hit somebody in the back?"
Westhoff also said he is in favor of player safety and would push for certain changes to be made, but not necessarily on kickoffs. He also said he had not heard about the idea of fourth-and-15 from a team's 30-yard line mentioned in the article.
Quinn said several NFL special teams coaches met last spring to discuss different ideas to make kickoffs safer. It was around that time that Giants president and CEO John Mara, a member of the Competition Committee, said he could see "the day in the future where that play could be taken out of the game. You see it evolving toward that."
With Neil Best