Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has joined the growing list of people voicing their disdain for the NFL’s latest kickoff rule.
On Tuesday, league owners voted on a rule essentially rewarding player for not returning kickoffs. For the 2023 season, the ball will placed at the 25-yard line if the returner fair catches the ball between the goal line and the 25-yard line. According to Pro Football Focus, around half of all kickoffs caught outside the end zone were returned to at least the 25-yard line in 2016 and 2017. Now, teams no longer have to rely on those coin-flip odds and can reliably get the ball there to start every drive.
Kelce — talking on his New Heights podcast with his brother Jason Kelce — was strongly against the rule.
“I think this is absolutely stupid,” Travis said. “I don’t think this is making the game safer. I think it’s making it more boring, and taking a lot of excitement out of the game’s opening play. This is wack.”
A few years prior, the league again tinkered with kickoffs by spotting the ball at the 25-yard line when the returner elected not to take the ball out of the end zone. Previously, a kneel in the end zone would result in the drive starting at the 20-yard line.
Jason said the trend doesn’t bode well for special teams.
“We’re just getting closer and closer to getting rid of special teams,” he said. “The only think left now is punt. When is somebody not gonna fair catch it and take the ball at the 25? Unless it’s just a really bad kick, right? I don’t know.”
In its announcement, the NFL cited safety concerns for the rule change. The league even mentioned data at the college level that supports it.
“The kickoff play for us has been a play that has had a lot of changes for us over the years, all really driven by health and safety,” league competition committee chairman Rich McKay said. “The concussion rate on the play has gone up. It’s gone up because the ball is being returned more by kicks that are being hung inside the 5-yard line. College made this rule change in maybe 2018 or 2019. We looked at their data and said, you know what, this is the right thing to do now.”