NFL kickoffs going away? Competition committee warns to make them safer or else

While the NFL is answering questions about its potentially controversial helmet rule, another possible rule change in the name of safety could create an even bigger wave.

Based on the words of Packers president Mark Murphy, who is on the competition committee, it seems that kickoffs could be banned in the near future barring a major change to that play.

“We’ve reduced the number of returns, but we haven’t really done anything to make the play safer,” Murphy told a small group of reporters, according to ESPN.

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Murphy said the league’s medical staff said concussions are five times as likely to happen on kickoffs than on plays from scrimmage, according to ESPN. That will lead to a meeting between the league, head coaches and special teams coordinators in the next few weeks. The message for that group?

“If you don’t make changes to make it safer, we’re going to do away with it,” Murphy said, according to ESPN. “It’s that serious. It’s by far the most dangerous play in the game.”

It’s hard to see how the NFL could change kickoffs in a significant way to make them much safer. The essence of the play is one team running at a full sprint down the field with a collision at the end, with either a blocker or the returner. It’s hard to make that safe.

The removal of the kickoff from NFL games would be a shock to the system, because even though we’re seeing far fewer returns with touchbacks much easier, kickoffs have been part of the game since the game started. If nothing else, it has been the symbolic start to every NFL game. There will be an uproar if kickoffs are banned.

It’s easy to see the NFL’s stance on kickoffs. The league has been under fire for years for not caring enough about player safety. If they present the information on concussions and kickoffs, it’s hard to fault the NFL for eliminating a dangerous play. Yet, there will still be plenty of debate because fans resist change in their game.

Assuming kickoffs survive for the 2018 season, you might want to enjoy them. The play might be eliminated before long.

Atlanta Falcons players tackle Rams returner Pharoh Cooper in a playoff game last season. (AP)
Atlanta Falcons players tackle Rams returner Pharoh Cooper in a playoff game last season. (AP)

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!