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Redskins’ reactions mixed to possibility of eliminating kickoffs

- The Washington Times - Friday, December 7, 2012

Redskins linebacker Bryan Kehl makes his living covering kickoffs in the NFL. That's why his reaction to the possibility of the NFL eliminating kickoffs from the game was a bit surprising on Friday.

"I thought it was interesting," Kehl said. "I can't really say I'm for or against it. I like what they're trying to do because I do agree that kickoff is the most dangerous play in football."

Commissioner Roger Goodell this week in an interview with TIME Magazine publicized a possible rule change suggested by Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano. After a team scores, instead of kicking off, that team would retain possession and immediately face a fourth-and-15 from its own 30-yard line.

The team could either punt the ball away or try to convert the fourth down. The purpose would be to eliminate kickoffs, a play on which a disproportionate amount of traumatic head and neck injuries occur, league research shows.

The NFL currently is being sued by thousands of former players, many of whom suffer effects from concussions. Changing the rules is a proactive way to prove the league is addressing player safety, which could help the league's defense in those lawsuits.

The NFL's competition committee will consider during the offseason eliminating kickoffs, said St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the committee, via ProFootballTalk.com.

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan indicated he would not be in favor of such a significant change. He believes it's important for the sport to maintain the value of special teams.

"I think it's good right now," Shanahan said of how the league moved kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35 in 2011 in order to increase the number of touchbacks.

"I think you've still got the kickoffs in the game. I think it's been positive – not as many injuries as a year ago, so I think it's a big plus."

Redskins kicker Kai Forbath grappled with how extensively such a rule change would effect the game.

"It would make my job easier," he said. "Not that I don't like kicking off."

Kehl was open to the change even though it could devalue his skills.

"Do I want to go smack into the wedge? No," he said. "There's a couple guys that might enjoy that, but those guys have a screw loose. But I do enjoy running down there trying to make a play on the ball carrier.

"But the whole fourth-and-15 thing is intriguing. I think it would be fun. Guys like me are going to have to adjust. I'm good on punt, but I'm going to have to become better on punt if they take away kickoff."

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