April 17, 2024

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Will the NFL have new rules to start next season?  Owners will vote on the proposal on Monday

Will the NFL have new rules to start next season? Owners will vote on the proposal on Monday

ORLANDO, Fla. – John Fassel walked out of the Ritz-Carlton ballroom with a pencil behind his ear, as always. The Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator was invited to his first league meetings with a special responsibility this year: presenting the new kickoff proposal to all 32 NFL owners for the first time.

Vassell and New Orleans Saints special teams coordinator Darren Riese spent Sunday afternoon doing their best to convince ownership that the starting playoff game was not a factor and that reviving it was of the utmost importance to the NFL. The duo has good experience so far explaining the new start — to their peers on special teams across the NFL, and to the competition committee — but this was their first time in a room with NFL ownership.

The proposal aims to increase kickoffs and reduce injury by eliminating running kickoffs to the starting team and incentivizing kickers to land kicks in the landing zone, which extends from the goal line to the 20-yard line. Any kick that lands in the landing zone must be returned. If it bounces into the end zone from the touchdown zone, it must be returned or dropped, and any kick that does not reach the touchdown zone will be treated as an out-of-bounds kickoff and placed on the receiving team's 40-yard line. . Any kick that lands in the end zone or goes out of the back of the end zone is a touchdown kick and is placed on the 30-yard line.


Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator John Fassel, left, gave his pitch on some new kickoff rules for NFL owners on Sunday in Orlando, Florida. (Kyle Terada/USA Today)

In 2010 there were 416 touchdowns and 45,000 yards, competition committee chairman Rich McKay said. This season, there were 1,970 touchdowns and just 13,000 yards.

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Players and fans are bored, Vassell said, and there's a lot of fatigue on special teams players from all the running and little rewards.

Vassell said the owners will vote on the new kickoff proposal on Monday, and he doesn't know which way things will go. He woke up feeling good about it, but at the end of the 5pm meetings, he wasn't as confident.

“I feel like it's leaning toward yes, but it's fluctuating,” Vassell said. The athlete. “It's kind of like walking in the waves. Like, you feel great. Like, 'Ah, it's going to go!'” And then I feel like I have cold feet.

In what may improve the proposal for some owners who are resistant to change, NFL Network reported that the competition committee unanimously decided Monday to change part of the original kickoff proposal. The original proposal had touchpoints going out to the receiving team's 35-yard line, and with the change approved Sunday, touchpoints that go into the end zone will quickly go out to the 30-yard line instead, which is a more digestible field position.

This may not be the final version of the new start that ends on Monday, if that happens. Vasil said they discussed multiple changes to the proposal at the meeting.

“Things can constantly change,” Fassel said. “It could be as simple as kick, do we have the kick at 30 or 35? Will the drop zone get to 20 or 25? Do we put the starting team on 40? Small incremental changes, but all of those things affect the return percentage, the start of the drive.

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Vassell didn't have to work hard to impress Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

“He loves it,” Fassel said. “He's kind of — not the older school mentality, but he wants the play to be more of a factor than it was last year. It was just a non-factor. One out of five was returned. It's like 20 percent. And that's not good enough.” Enough.

The Jones Cowboys were at the forefront of NFL teams preparing for a fresh start. Vassell has been a fan of the play since the XFL's version debuted in 2021, even having his special teams unit practice the play twice during OTAs last year and twice during training camp.

“Just in case if things go that way, I'll learn from a coach's perspective to talk about it in those meetings,” Vassell said.

Fassel said the owners did not ask questions during his presentation. It was more than the general managers and coaches in the room. Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who has a special teams background, asked several scheme-specific questions about the blocking.

Vassell said it was time to ditch the Band-Aid and move forward with a new play that he believes will be adopted at all levels of football after the NFL.

During McKay's press conference before the league meetings, he reviewed a troubling trend in the NFL: scoring has declined since 2020, when the average scoring per game was 49 points. It decreased to 45 points in 2021, 43.7 points in 2022, and 43.5 points in 2023.

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“The kickoff this year will impact scoring, and it will impact field position by at least 3 to 5 yards,” McKay said.

And if there's one thing that makes Vassell feel better about his favorite baseman's chances?

“The owners want more scoring,” he said.

(Top image: Luke Hales/Getty Images)