Player safety is becoming more of a priority in the NFL in the wake of the concussion issues affecting current players and CTE and other health issues affecting former players.
And that has resulted in the league's competition committee revisiting many of the rules that put players at risk of head trauma and other injuries.
Prior to the 2011 season, the NFL moved kickoffs from the 30-yard-line to the 35-yard-line in hopes of creating more touchbacks and fewer returns. This season, a touchback will result in five extra yards -- the ball will be placed at the 25 instead of the 20 -- for the receiving team.
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And New York Giants co-owner John Mara, a 16-year-member of the competition committee, didn't shy from where this all ultimately might lead.
"We're not at the point where we want to take the kickoff out of the game completely, although we may be moving in that direction," Mara told the Giants' website. "One of the concerns is what do you do in a situation where you've scored late in the game and you're down by less than a touchdown, and it takes away the onside kick. As I say, you could very well see the kickoff eliminated at some point in time in the future, but I don't think we're at that point yet. It still does remain an exciting play, but it's also a dangerous play. Obviously concussions are on the top of our list in terms of our concerns for the game going forward."
It's a very interesting and overlooked point about the onside kick -- and yet another factor that must be taken into consideration.
Added Mara: "The theory there was that the kickoff return remains the most dangerous play that we have in the game, has the highest rate of concussions. You see more and more returners bringing the ball out from eight or nine yards deep. The hope is that if they're catching the ball that deep in the end zone, knowing that they're going to automatically get it at the 25, maybe that would discourage them from coming out."