The NFL’s competition committee meets every offseason suggesting changes that could be made to improve the game. They discuss anything from player safety to what constitutes a catch, and the committee usually does a great job of tweaking the rules. But this year’s changes will water down the game on the field, particularly, moving kickoffs up from the 30-yard line to the 35, which will have an impact on kick return specialists, such as Devin Hester, and will diminish their value and impact on games, increasing the value of kickers and punters. The kicking game, to me, is the most boring part of the game, so why take away the game’s most exciting players? I understand the move was obviously made with the intention of increasing touchbacks and decreasing the punishing hits players take on kickoff returns, but if they want to take that away, they might as well just eliminate kickoffs from the game all together. Fans come to games to see exciting returns, not to watch touchbacks, but apparently the NFL is unaware.
Devin Hester joined ESPN Radio Chicago to talk about what he thinks about the new kickoff rules, if the new rule will hurt Bears as a team, and whether the NFL has gone too far with this rule change.
What he thinks about the new kickoff rules:
“Actually I have been down here in Miami practicing on my leg because I got a strong feeling that I’m not going to get any returns, so I said, ‘Hey let me try to do the kickoff to keep a job going’ but to be honest they might as well put up the arena nets, man, cause it’s going to be a lot of balls going in the endzone, man.”
How many kickers can keep him from returning kicks for touchdowns:
“I think all of them are capable of doing it. It is just that a lot of kickers have just been bloopin’ kicking, you know not really trying to force them into the endzone because they know we are going to bring them out. So what they have been going to be doing is blooping them up in the air and giving their defenders enough time to at least try to make a tackle, and now they have the five-yard rule where they put them up 5 yards and now it is just easier for them to kick it in the endzone.”
Whether he is going to be more inclined to return a ball five yards deeper into the endzone:
“I have but I heard that if it goes in the endzone it is automatically a touchback… I mean, we are the type of team that we have the green light from day one that you know if they kick a line drive and it is not a certain amount of hangtime that we are capable of taking it out, and the coaches give us the green light to do it, but at the same time that is going to be real tough for returners.”
If the new rule will hurt Bears as a team:
“I think it could hinder us a little, you know, because we dwell off good field position. That is one of our key assets to our offense; a good return game giving the offense good field position and not only giving them good field position , but we kind of do put points on the board when it comes to return game. And that right there I think is going to hurt us a bit and really grow up on this new rule and really take it serious.”
Whether the NFL has gone too far with this rule change:
“Yeah they have gone too far. They are changing the whole fun of the game. The fans come out to see, especially to Chicago, to see returns. That is one of our key assets to our team, fans dwell on our big returns and taking that out the game, not only do they now kick it out of bounds when it is time to punt the ball but now you get this advantage on kickoffs, you know where we thought we were guaranteed a kickoff and now you are taking that away from our return game, now it is like you are taking the whole return game out the picture.”
If he expects to be playing football on September 8th:
“I feel 100% sure that we are going to play this year. I don’t think this world will revolve without any football. This is what keeps this world going, I feel, the fans dwell on football season and the day that a season ends they start talking about next year. So I don’t think they are going to allow this to carry out before the season starts up.”