Bucs coach Greg Schiano explains his position on kickoffs
When Greg Schiano cooked up a concept that would eliminate kickoffs in the NFL and shared the idea with commissioner Roger Goodell, it wasn’t about trying to show how smart he is.
Instead, the Bucs coach was inspired by his personal experience with his former Rutgers player Eric LeGrand, who was critically injured and remains paralyzed after hurting his neck while covering a kickoff.
“I understand traditionalists who don’t agree,” Schiano said. “But there used to not be the forward pass, too. And the game would be pretty boring without it. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. I’m saying you have to be able to think outside and it’s whatever’s best for the player.
“At the end of the day, these guys are the ones who are putting it on the line. . . I know it’s a violent game and that’s one of the things that I love about it is the physical part of it. But there’s areas that are more susceptible to injury.”
Schiano, in a conversation that occurred before he was hired by the Bucs in January, told Goodell about his idea. He explained that teams would be given the ball at their own 30-yard line after they scored, rather than kicking off to the opponent. They would then have the option of punting the ball away or trying to convert a fourth down and 15. Attempting to convert the first down would be the equivalent of an onside kick, Schiano said, and could potentially create some intriguing situations.
“I think you could have a lot of exciting stuff if you opened the game with a blocked punt,” he said. “Who knows what could happen?”
It’s widely accepted that kickoffs are a particularly dangerous aspect of the game. The NFL's competition committee is going to study the idea of eliminating kickoffs after this season because of the risks. Schiano offered data that he says support the idea, but he got all the evidence he needed on Oct. 16, 2010 – the day LeGrand went down.
“When I was researching this, one of the things (I learned) was in the old kickoff rules (when the ball was placed at the 30), 17 percent of the catastrophic injuries came on kickoffs. But (kickoffs) are only about 6 percent of the game. So, that’s disproportionate. Things like that are reasons that led me to this. But obviously, with me, it’s a personal thing because of Eric LeGrand.”
Schiano might have convincing to do, even in his own locker room.
“I think football is football, people can get hurt,” said LB Dekoda Watson, one of the team’s special teams standouts. “But if they keep doing all these things for safety, we aren’t going to be able to touch the quarterback. It’ll be tag the quarterback after a while.
“I understand what they’re saying. But at the same time, it’s the nature of the beast.”