Sean Payton, who will bring his New Orleans Saints to Green Bay in just about eight days, had some interesting comments about the new kick off rule.
Interviewed on pro Football Talk Live tonight, Payton, whose team won the Super Bowl because of his gutsy call on the second half opening kick-off, said the NFL is just a step away from outright banning the play.
Our only hope is that he is wrong about his assessment. If there’s one play in all of sports that has become synonymous with an indication of the start of things, it’s the kick-off. For that reason alone it would be sacrilegious to ban the play.
But here’s what Payton had to say about banning kick-offs:
“Well, that’s a great question, because the next question you would ask as attorney, well, if it’s 3-to-1 the most difficult play in sports, you are still potentially kicking off and returning it right? So I think the traditionalist in all of us want to see that as the beginning of the play. I mean for anything else, it represents what is the start of a game. So how can we slow down the momentum? How can we make it safer? And so that has been the challenge.
“Sitting in on John Madden’s coaches committee, and discussing this topic, this is a tough one, in regards to trying to reduce collision speed. There are a number of things you can do offensively and defensively, but when it comes to kicking that ball and these guys are running down the field a pretty good rate of speed, even if they have a five-yard start as opposed to last year the 10-yard start. I wouldn’t be surprised, Mike, if down the road that’s where it was headed. Unless we come up with some good answers. And that’s the trick.”
Taking the kick-off away would be nothing more than a major de-neutering of the game … Something that will never be tolerated by the average fan.