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The NFL modified the kickoff rule in the offseason, moving the ball up five yards in an effort to limit the number of kickoff returns _ a play deemed one of the most dangerous in the sport.

In Week 1, the number of touchbacks did, in fact, rise dramatically. But, perhaps surprisingly, there were three kickoffs returned for touchdowns. Also, there were five punts returned for scores. The eight combined return touchdowns set an NFL record for one week.

The three kickoff return touchdowns of at least 100 yards also tied an NFL record. This was only the second opening weekend in which there were three kickoffs returned for scores.

“I think what everybody figured out pretty quick is that if you don’t (return the ball from the end zone), you’ve got no return,” Everest said. “So, then you’re conceding the ball to the 20. So, people started putting in different parameters (for how deep in the end zone to return from).”

Everest said Brown _ as well as Emmanuel Sanders and Pittsburgh’s other returners _ have the freedom to return a kickoff into the end zone based on their evaluations of the situation in terms of hang time, depth in the end zone and whether they are under the ball rather than moving backward.

Everest also had an interesting take on the NFL moving the spot of the kickoffs. He theorizes it might actually increase potential injuries rather than decrease them.

“You’ve got more distance to build up speed,” he said, “so it’s becoming a faster play at impact.

“I don’t know if they planned on it to be a touchback every play, basically eliminating (kickoffs as) a player safety issue. But I think what’s happening is the reverse because now they’re making impact and contact down at the 15-yard line instead of at the 25 or the 30. So, they’re humming when they get down there.”