In college, for reasons that still remain unknown to me, my coaches played me at wedge buster on kick-off. At the time, I was just grateful to be on the field. However, now, I think it was probably a bad idea. In fact, I know it was. I was ineffective to say the least. Very few wedges were busted and even fewer tackles were made. In one game against Louisville, Robert McCune abused me so bad that I left the stadium holding his inside out pocket.
In high school, I thought kickoff was fun, but it’s a different story when you have to make a forty-yard sprint directly into a 230 lbs middle linebacker. I didn’t play much, but I always felt like I was hit by a truck the next day. Perhaps I’m just soft (actually, I’m incredibly soft) but I never want to face that kind of physicality again.
Kickoff is a brutal play on any level, but, in the NFL, it basically shortens lives. So, I completely understand why the league has decided to move up the kickoff point. However, the new kickoff rules leave me conflicted. As vicious as the play is, it is an integral part of the game. No play can swing momentum more and its effective removal will leave somewhat of a vacuum.
Actually, I hate the new kickoff rules. Perhaps disallowing the formation of wedges didn’t achieve its intended purpose, but if we start removing parts of the game because they are too brutal, there won’t be much left. I’m all for player safety, but I have to think there are other ways that they could make the play safer without sacrificing some of football’s most exciting moments.
Jason Garrett made some interesting comments about the new kickoff rules. He vocally pondered whether or not they made it unnecessary to keep guys like Bill Bates and Devin Hester on rosters. Are we really prepared for an NFL without the Steve Tasker types? I’m not. Unfortunately, that may be the direction things have gone.
With the new rules, many big returns, dynamic touchdowns, and game turning fumbles will be lost. Instead, every team will start most of their drives on the twenty. That is perhaps my biggest problem with the rule. According to those in support, this will enable the game to become more offensive. The idea being that we will see long drives on a more frequent basis. That’s a pipe dream. If anything, we will see less offense. Games are often decided by field position and pinning the opponent inside the twenty is an excellent result. So, while I get the motivation behind wanting to make it safer, I don’t understand why the league thinks this will give us more offense. It won’t.
The good news is that the Cowboys won’t have to waste a roster spot on a kickoff specialist. That is something that drove me absolutely crazy in 2009.