Several Redskins players expressed opposition to the proposal to eliminate kickoffs from the NFL.
“The kickoff return is part of the game,” tight end Niles Paul said. “It always has been. I don’t see why you’d take it out…. You’re taking away football. A lot of people have their livelihood in the NFL on kickoffs and kickoff returns. You’re taking people’s jobs away when you do that.”
Under the proposal, first mentioned in a Time magazine story, the kickoff would be eliminated and the team that scores would be given the ball at its own 30-yard line for a fourth-and-15 play. The team could elect to punt or try for a first down.
“That’s just taking jobs away from guys, especially in some circumstances,” Redskins fullback Darrel Young said. “You look at a guy like Lorenzo Alexander. He’s made his name on special teams, making tackles on kickoffs. I just don’t think that’s fair to people. They can say it’s about the safety of the game. But I don’t agree with it personally. No, I don’t want to see that happen. Everyone comes to the Super Bowl to see the first kickoff, all the lights flashing and all that. That’s what I like to see.”
NFL leaders have called the kickoff a particularly dangerous play and have taken steps to attempt to make it safer. Prior to last season, the league moved the kickoff five yards closer to the opposite goal line — increasing the number of touchbacks and decreasing the number of kickoffs being returned — and reduced how far prospective tacklers have to get a running start prior to the kick.
“I think it’s good right now,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said. “I think it’s good. I think you’ve still got the kickoffs in the game. I think it’s been positive.”
Young said players know the risks they’re taking and do so willingly.
“You know what you sign up for when you play football…. It’s football,” Young said. “It’s what you sign up for. It’s what you do all your life. Why take it away now? It’s the game that we love. I understand the safety issue. But at the end of the day, a lot of situations are unfortunate. We don’t want to see it [a serious injury] happen. I don’t ever want to hear about it happening. But it’s going to happen regardless, if I’m running on a running play or whatever the situation may be.”
Said Paul: “You’ve got your starters on the team, and you’ve got your special teams players. You’ve got your special teams players that love doing that stuff. It’s what they do.”