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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Here's why Greg Schiano wants to eliminate kickoffs



You might have heard on Thursday that Bucs coach Greg Schiano was cited as the source of a proposal that would eliminate kickoffs in NFL games.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, in a cover story in Time magazine, said that among the ideas being discussed is a radical one from Schiano in which teams would be given the ball at their own 30-yard line after they score, 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.

The idea of eliminating kickoffs is not new, but this particular solution is. But there’s a much larger issue here you may not be aware of, and it’s the reason Schiano even cares about this in the first place:

Player safety.

For Schiano, this isn’t about competition or trying to find an edge. Instead, his distaste for kickoffs originated on Oct. 16, 2010. That was the day his former Rutgers player, Eric LeGrand, suffered a devastating spinal cord injury – while covering a kickoff.

It’s among the most dangerous plays in football, mostly because of the high-speed collisions that occur. With players running at top-end speed for more than 50 yards toward oncoming blockers and the ball carrier, things can, and do, get hairy.

Schiano has argued for this before. In a September article in ESPN The Magazine, he said he envisioned kickoffs one day being eliminated.

“I believe that day will come," he said. "Unfortunately, it will probably take more players being seriously hurt. But I think there's another way to do this.”

Will this happen? Goodell is open, in general, to the idea of getting rid of kickoffs. Schiano's proposal is certainly different, and even Goodell called it "an off-the-wall idea." But the league’s competition committee is exploring ways to deal wih kickoffs and will discuss them in the offseason.

Will there be resistance? Yes. But don’t expect anything but advocacy from Schiano.

His mind was made up long ago.

[Last modified: Friday, December 7, 2012 6:58am]


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