NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made waves this week when, in an interview with Time magazine, Goodwell discussed the potential of eliminating kickoffs completely from the game. While still merely in the theoretical stage, the fact the commissioner of the league is on board with the proposal goes a long way to seeing it to fruition.
The early reaction to the plan hasn't been positive, especially to those most intimately involved with the process, like Vikings kicker Blair Walsh. He didn't mince words when it came to his view on the proposed change because, while injuries are allegedly the impetus behind the decision, he doesn't see where it makes sense in the big scheme of things.
"I heard about it and I think it's stupid," Walsh said. "The new rule they put in (moving the kickoff line from the 30- to the 35-yard line) eliminated the injuries to begin with – or at least it reduced the number of injuries. Taking away the kickoffs takes away the integrity of the game a little bit."
Under the commissioner's plan, at the start of a half or after a team scores, it would retain possession of the ball on their own 30-yard line with the option of sending its offense back out on the field facing a 4th-and-15 situation or punt the ball from that spot. Not only could a team that is down by double digits late in a game have a chance to convert the 15 yards needed and retain possession, it would eliminate players like Walsh from having an impact on the game with his kickoff.
One of Walsh's calling cards is that he can boom kickoffs. He is among the league leaders in touchbacks on kickoffs and, under the proposed rules change, that portion of his game would be rendered moot. Walsh believes the outcome would be that fewer teams would take a chance on young, strong-legged kickers because their job would be reduced to merely kicking field goals and extra points.
"You will see a lot of older guys staying around," Walsh said. "I just think it would be a weird way to start a game – a 4th-and-15 and you punt? Really? It's just a bizarre way to do it. I think the kickoff is such a traditional part of the game that they really shouldn't mess with it."
The idea of taking away the kickoff is, at its heart, a method of reducing injuries. But Walsh contends there are just as many injuries that take place on punts as there are on kickoffs and that eliminating kickoffs won't reduce those kinds of numbers at all.
"There are different types of injuries," Walsh said. "(Punter Chris) Kluwe and I were talking about this. More injuries on punts are side blows where guys don't see the hit coming. On kickoffs, most injuries are direct collision. I still think the numbers won't change significantly, but the game will."
Walsh referred to the proposal as "an overreaction" on the part of Goodell and said not only would kickers be impacted by the potential change, but so would kick returners – who are among the most electric players in the game and many of whom have roster spots because of their return ability.
"I don't think it will pass because it will kill that game and eliminate jobs all around the league," Walsh said. "I don't know exactly who is a proponent of it, but it just doesn't make sense. Guys like Percy Harvin can change the momentum of a game completely by returning a kickoff for a touchdown or a long gain after the other team has scored. That would go away from the game and it would be a shame."
Walsh hopes Goodell's proposal in the Time interview will turn out to be a case of the commissioner merely thinking out loud with potential scenarios, not a strong belief in making the change. He doesn't believe coaches will be in favor of a system that eliminates kickoffs and thinks the players union will be against it because it wouldn't be in its best interest to potentially eliminate jobs from its membership.
"All I hope is that this idea goes away as quickly as it came up," Walsh said. "It's ridiculous to me that something like this even gets serious consideration. The kickoff and the kickoff return are important parts of the game and have been throughout its history. To change it after all this time doesn't make any sense and would impact a lot of people. I know Commissioner Goodell wants to limit injuries, but how far do you go? If this keeps up, the game won't be the same and I don't think anybody wants to see it – not coaches, not players and not fans."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Walsh thinks new kickoff idea is ‘stupid'
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