NFL approves new fair-catch rule on kickoffs

May 24, 2023, 11:49 AM

Kansas City Chiefs' kicker Harrison Butker kicks the ball for kickoff Super Bowl LVII between the K...

Kansas City Chiefs' kicker Harrison Butker kicks the ball for kickoff Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, on February 12, 2023. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

The NFL league office has been working hard the last few years to make the game safer. They may have taken another step towards that this week.

The league office approved a new resolution on kickoff returns Tuesday, allowing fair catches to be place at the 25-yard-line of the receiving team. This is a rule already established in college football, taking some worry away from the violent nature of kickoff returns. Players can still run the ball back upon catching it, but will have the option to fair-catch with an automatic advancement to the 25-yard-line.

The NFL rules committee proposed the resolution this year, with the owners and commissioner Roger Goodell in favor of it. However, the players and coaching staffs felt differently, with almost unanimous pushback on the measure. The former won out in the end, causing major frustration across the NFL landscape.

While it will be on a one-year trial for the 2023 season, many expect the NFL to push for more measures similar to this in the future. The league office and teams feel similarly about wanting the game to be safer, but the latter doesn’t feel this was the way to go about it.

“Probably the same as all the special teams coaches,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said about the new rule Tuesday. “When you don’t have experience of it, you don’t know which way it’s going to go. And I think the point is probably to eliminate kickoffs, which is for safety, so if that’s the case then I think everyone’s for that. I’m just not sure that it is, so we’ll have to see how it plays out now and how it goes and how we adjust to it, but that’s the rule now, so now we’ll start trying to make estimates about what our philosophies will be, but any philosophy will be developed through the experience of watching how it works out throughout the year.”


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