NFL aiming to modernize punt play, crowdsource ideas

The NFL Competition Committee is aiming to make some changes to the punt play this offseason and is crowdsourcing the creative process, Falcons president Rich McKay told reporters Tuesday.

"This is a play we think is ready and ripe to be modernized," McKay, the chairman of the competition committee, said during a conference call with reporters, per The Washington Post.

McKay said, per The Post, that the competition committee will consider changes both from player-safety and competitive standpoints.

McKay's comments came in conjunction with the announcement of "1st and Future", a competition held during Super Bowl week designed to "spur innovation in athlete safety and performance." The event will be hosted at Georgia Tech on Feb. 2.

One of the categories of competition is entitled "NFL Punt Analytics Competition". Appliciants to the competition will be given exclusive NFL data sets to inform submissions about possible rule changes designed to "reduce player injury during punt plays." The creators of the winning submissions will be awarded $20,000 each.

"Leveraging available data to analyze the game is an increasingly essential way to improve our rules and look to make the game safer," NFL executive vice president of health and safety initiatives Jeff Miller explained in a press release. "This is a groundbreaking new effort to ask the public to analyze our rules and make recommendations. We are excited to tap into the innovative thinking of data scientists and entrepreneurs."

McKay said, per The Post, the league will take any suggestions made from the competition in consideration this offseason as the committee looks to change how the punt play is orchestrated and officiated.

This crowdsourced initiative comes less than a year after the league changed rules related to the kickoff in order to limit full-speed collisions. Among the changes were the elimination of a five-yard running start and the wedge block.

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