Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

LeGrand injury spurs Bucs coach Greg Schiano's idea to eliminate kickoffs

TAMPA — 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 experience with his former Rutgers player, Eric LeGrand, who remains paralyzed after injuring 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: 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 create 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 dangerous aspect of the game. Schiano offered data that he says proves it, 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 some 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 Bucs' 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."

INJURY REPORT: DT Roy Miller (head) returned to practice Friday and hopes to play Sunday. Miller said he was injured in the second quarter of lat week's loss at Denver. He has been undergoing tests all week but was cleared to practice. "We're going to be cautious," Schiano said.

CB LeQuan Lewis, also the kickoff returner, has been ruled out with a knee injury. Schiano would not specify who would take his place on special teams.

WHERE'S RONDE? If you notice S Ronde Barber missing from Sunday's halftime celebration marking the 10th anniversary of the Super Bowl XXXVII championship, it'll be because he's a little busy. Asked this week whether Schiano would be okay with his participating, Barber had his doubts.

"I don't think Coach is going to let that happen," Barber said. "If he does, it'll be a surprise to me. I don't know what I'm allowed to do. I've got to work.

"Unfortunately, I won't be enjoying it as much as other guys. But it'll be a great moment."

Schiano's position: "The thing I know is that when guys are done playing, they wish they could go play again, and Ronde is still playing. So, let's go win. Whatever helps us win the most is what we'll do."

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