Former Rutgers linebacker Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed while trying to make a tackle on a kickoff against Army on Oct. 16, 2010, thinks the NFL should do away with a recently enacted rule that places kickoffs at the 35-yard line in an effort to reduce violent collisions that can cause injuries like the one he suffered.
Filling in for Peter King in his Monday Morning Quarterback on SI.com, LeGrand thinks kickoffs should go back to the 30-yard line, and that there shouldn’t be any fundamental changes to the play because of the injury risk.
“Take it from someone who has gotten injured on a kickoff: I think kickoffs in the NFL should return to the way they used to be,” said LeGrand, who was recently signed as an honorary member of the Buccaneers by new head coach Greg Schiano, LeGrand’s coach at Rutgers. “Lots of football players can make a career out of playing on special teams, and the new system takes some of the thrill and excitement of the game out.”
Even Schiano thinks kickoffs shouldn’t be a part of the game. He told Steve Politi of the Star-Ledger last year that he’d like to see kickoffs replaced by a punting situation. Here’s how Politi described Schiano's idea:
“Replace all kickoffs with a punting situation, including after the opening coin toss and to start the second half. So, as an example, when Team A scores a touchdown, it immediately gets the ball back on a fourth and 15 from its own 30-yard line.
It can punt it back to Team B — the most likely outcome and a safer play since the bigger collisions usually happen on kickoffs.
Or it can line up and go for the first down, essentially replacing an onside kick with an offensive play that would require more skill than luck.”
But LeGrand isn’t buying it, even at a time when NFL officials acknowledge that the increased injury risks on kickoffs was what prompted them to move kickoffs to the 35. Last season, nearly half of all kickoffs were not returned.