The Dying Art of Special Teams

By: Kartar Singh

The NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement brought with it new rules to this season. Fans all knew that, when the last whistle was blown on the 2010-2011 season and the offseason began, the old agreement would have to be altered.

What we did not know was what the new deal would bring to the table. And while most of the new rules were tolerable if not positive changes for most fans, there was one rule change in particular that has had a major backlash from fans across the  country.

The rule I am referring to, of course, is the seemingly harmless moving of the kickoff from the thirty to the thirty-five yard line. While this may seem like a small change in a small part of the game, it has essentially opened the gates to the possible death of one segment of the game: special teams.

One of the most exciting plays in football, the kickoff return, has now been taken away from not only the fans. This rule has largely nullified the talent and skill needed to play the role of returner.

Great kickoff returners such as Desean Jackson, Ted Ginn, and the best of our era, Devin Hester, are now much less of a coveted asset for their teams. Granted they are still a huge threat in the punt return game, but we will never be able to see these players thought of as a hot commodity or even a necessity to a team ever again.

Players that made their name in the league, such as exciting returner for the Chiefs, Dante Hall, are now just another “role player” in a league thirsty to keep its reputation in the U.S. as the most watched sport.

Now we all know that the rule was made to prevent injury, but, if looked at more closely, serious injuries very rarely occur during kickoff returns. Of course there was the highly publicized life-threatening injury to former Bills tight end Kevin Everett, but all in all these incidents are much more infrequent than in any other part of the game.

These five yards, as minimal and insignificant as they may look, have caused a change in the game that has upset many fans. Unfortunately, fans probably won’t see a change for another ten years; but, until then, don’t expect the Josh Cribbs and Devin Hesters of the world to be highly sought after in the NFL, a huge paradox from the recent past.

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