The NFL has established a new initiative to modify game kickoffs in an attempt to make one of the most dangerous plays in the sport safer.
The League eliminated wedge blocking entirely and now bans players on the kicking team from getting a running start.
For the receiving team, eight of the 11 players on the field must line up within 15 yards of the spot of the kickoff and no hitting is allowed within those 15 yards. Taking away a running start will presumably lower the speed of collisions between players. Especially when all but three players on the receiving team will be close to the spot of the kickoff.
The strategy is to eliminate the distance between the two sides, reducing the speed of the collisions between blockers and would-be tacklers.
The returner and two blockers would still be able to get a running head start, although the majority of the coverage team will get slowed down by blockers who will be running backwards first.
“The problem was that you had guys too far away from the kicking team,” former Buffalo Bills special teamer Steve Tasker told the Washington Post. “And they had a chance to gather themselves and run toward the kicking team, with the kicking team running toward them. Nobody’s trying to avoid the contact.”
“Under the current NFL rules, coverage teams can get a 5-yard running start and blockers run backwards a bit before turning and turning back with a head of steam toward the coverage team”, SB Nation reports.
“Now, you’ve got guys running with each other down the field. It makes a big difference,” Kansas City Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub told the Post.