Bill Belichick doesn’t care for the NFL’s new kickoff rule and went so far as to say today that he thinks the NFL is trying to eliminate the play entirely. The league disagrees, but the decision to move kickoffs to the 35 has been the hot topic so far — after all of one week of preseason games.
Belichick joked about being led to the topic repeatedly today when he met with media members, but interrupted one questioner who began by saying: “If the intention of the league is to almost eliminate kickoffs . . .”
“That's what they told us,” Belichick said. “I'm not speaking for anyone else. That's what they told us, that they want to eliminate the play.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello responded to that in an email to Comcast SportsNet New England’s Tom Curran:
“Rich McKay [chairman of the Competition Committee and [NFL vice president] Ray Anderson say that’s not accurate. They said the Competition Committee’s position was that they wanted to 'shorten the field' and that the movement of the kickoff line would potentially reduce the number of kickoffs to be returned. They said they are unaware of anyone saying that it was intended to 'eliminate' the kickoff return.”
Baltimore Ravens Coach John Harbaugh, like Belichick a former special teams coach, doesn’t like the new rule, either. “If you look at the Eagles-Ravens preseason game, it was just a yawner,” Harbaugh said. “I wasn’t very impressed with it the first week.”
Players and fans were critical as well when they got to see the rule in real-time application. There were returns — Bryan Walters returned a kick 103 yards for a touchdown in the San Diego Chargers-Seattle Seahawks game — but overall the preseason games featured a spike in the number of touchbacks. NFL.com reported that 33 percent of kickoffs resulted in touchbacks in Week 1 of preseason.