Photo courtesy of the National Football League/Twitter
Kickoffs will not disappear from NFL games in 2018, but they will look different.
A group of owners, head coaches, position coaches, medical people, an active player and a union official met on Wednesday in New York and came close to finalizing new kickoff rules.
The final draft is expected to be completed by the end of the week and presented to NFL teams for review on Monday. The owners will vote on the proposal later this month at their Spring League Meeting in Atlanta.
"I'm optimistic we've made changes that will make the game safer," said special teams coach Dave Taub of the Kansas City Chiefs. "It's crucial that everyone was involved.
"Football is at an inflection point. Either we make the changes we have to make to make the game safer or there will be negative consequences for all of us. Everybody realizes this is what's needed."
Under the proposed rules, there will be no running start or pre-kick motion by kickoff coverage teams and no wedge blocks by the return team.
In addition, there will be a 15-yard, non-contact zone from the spot of the kick, with the return team required to have a minimum of eight players lined up 15 yards from the ball.
It is expected that the rules will take some of the bigger linemen off the field because there will be a premium placed on agility and speed to operate in space, and also eliminate some of the violent collisions often seen on kickoffs.
Kickoff coverage is expected to resemble what happens on punts.
"We want to preserve the play, and this is a big first step to doing that," said Chairman Rich McKay of the NFL's Competition Committee.
Among those attending the meeting were owners Dr. John York of the San Francisco 49ers, and George McCaskey of the Chicago Bears; head coaches Anthony Lynn of the Los Angeles Chargers, John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens and Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and nine special teams coaches.
"Overall, we kept the kickoff in the game and, I think, made it safer," said Lynn, who played much of his on special teams. "That was the whole objective from my standpoint."