Troy Vincent, the NFL's top executive in charge of football operations, said Tuesday the NFL will not eliminate the kickoff, but is hoping to modify it for the 2018 season to make the most dangerous play in the game safer.
The NFL began two days of meetings Tuesday with coaches, medical officials, former players and members of the officiating office, on player-safety related rules, but changes to the kickoff have been building in recent years. The league is pleased that there are more touchbacks in the game, but Vincent said they are alarmed that there are still huge hits on touchbacks, even though most people think of that as a dead play.
"We've got to get that out of the game," Vincent said.
That concern has led to speculation, including from the Packers' Mark Murphy, that the kickoff could be eliminated entirely. Vincent, though, said the NFL will "absolutely not" get rid of the kickoff and does not want to make the play a ceremonial one. He said the league wants to be careful not to overcorrect the kickoff. In the past, the NFL eliminated the wedge -- three, four or five man blocks -- but Vincent indicated that two-on-one blocks remain problematic on kickoffs and could be eliminated, allowing only one-on-one blocks on kickoffs.
Vincent said that the NFL hopes to emerge from this week's meetings with a proposal it can take to owners for a vote at their meeting later this month. The rule would apply to the 2018 season. Wednesday's session will focus on the kickoff.
The first day of the meetings was devoted to a new rule that prohibits players from lowering their heads to initiate and make contact with the helmet -- any part of the helmet, and not just for contact to the head but to all parts of the body. The NFL said 291 concussions were recorded in the 2017 season -- an all-time high -- and 46 percent of them were caused by helmet to helmet contact. The session was focused on interior line play, where the new rule is expected to be especially challenging to adjust to and officiate.