Belichick: New touchback rule didn't prevent a concussion last week

Belichick: New touchback rule didn't prevent a concussion last week

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick wondered aloud at his Friday morning press conferece if the new touchback rule is doing as much for player safety as the league hoped it would.

The reason? Last weekend he saw Denver's Kayvon Webster take a massive hit from Kansas City's Terrance Smith in the second quarter, knocking Webster from the game with a concussion. Webster was in the process of covering a kick that was kneeled for a Chiefs touchback. 

That's not the kind of play that the NFL Competition Committee was anticipating when it implemented a one-year experimental rule placing touchbacks at the 25-yard line following kickoffs. With five extra yards tacked on to kicks kneeled in the end zone, receiving teams were supposed to be encouraged to take fewer kicks out. Fewer returns was supposed to mean fewer high-impact collisions, meaning fewer devastating injuries, including concussions.

When Belichick was asked for his thoughts on the new rule after a 15-game sample size, he alluded to the Chiefs-Broncos game as an indicator of just how difficult it can be to predict which plays will lead to head injuries.

"I'd say last week was a good example, though, of some of the different proponents of 'we want more touchbacks,' " Belichick said. "We saw a pretty big concussed play with a touchback. Part of the touchback is, 'Well, we think it's a touchback so everybody's not playing the same speed. Because we think it's a touchback, it's going to be a no play.'

"But then, as a coverage team, you don't know for sure the guy isn't coming out or not so you're playing it at full speed. So some of the concussions and some of the injuries look to me like they come on touchbacks. If we want more touchbacks, is that really solving the problem here as it's been presented by the Competition Committee? You know how I feel about it. We'll see how smart some of that has really been to address the problems that we think are being addressed.

"It seems like, football, we got a pretty good game here. Been that way for a long time. Seems like the kicking game has been a great part of our game. But I guess we have a lot of people who feel like the game needs to be changed so I don't know. We'll just have to see how it all turns out."

Breaking down some of the Patriots' best NFL Draft decisions

Breaking down some of the Patriots' best NFL Draft decisions

Michael Holley and Tom E. Curran discuss the drafts/draft traits that stand out from the last 16 years of New England Patriots drafts.

Jimmy Garoppolo stays put as quarterbacks go high, Browns make moves

Jimmy Garoppolo stays put as quarterbacks go high, Browns make moves

For all the questions that surrounded the top quarterbacks in the 2017 draft, an early run on signal-callers still occurred. The Browns sat it out -- even facilitating another team’s selection of a QB -- yet Jimmy Garoppolo stayed put. 

Garoppolo not being traded ahead of or during the first round should not have come as a surprise; Adam Schefter has insisted throughout the offseason that the Patriots would not trade him for anything. Yet for the prices that were paid for QBs Thursday night, it’s still fascinating to think of what New England could have gotten for their backup. 

MORE:

The madness started nearly immediately. After Cleveland took Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett to open the draft, the Bears moved up from No. 3 to No. 2 -- trading third-and-fourth-round picks this year and a third next season to San Francisco -- to take UNC’s Mitchell Trubisky. 

At No. 10, it was the Chiefs moving up to the Bills’ spot, going all the way from No. 27 and giving up next year’s first as part of a package to secure Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Two picks later, the Browns were on the clock with Deshaun Watson still on the board, but they opted to trade the pick to Houston, who gave Cleveland the 25th overall pick this year and their first-rounder next year before selecting the Clemson star. 

The Browns, who have long been viewed as a logical potential destination for Garoppolo, made two more picks in the first round, choosing Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers 25th and trading back into the first round to make Miami tight end David Njoku their third first-round pick of the night at 29th overall. 

While the Browns obviously spent plenty of draft capital Thursday, they still have not addressed the quarterback position beyond Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and trade acquisition (that’s a nice way of putting it; a more honest would be “salary dump acquisition”) Brock Osweiler. 

That leads Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot to believe that the Browns will still try to swing a trade for Garoppolo, who is entering the final year of his four-year rookie deal. Cabot writes that the Browns will “likely make a pitch for the Patriots backup,” though she too notes Scheffer’s insistence that Garoppolo isn’t going anywhere. The Browns now have two firsts and three seconds in 2018. 

The Patriots still aren’t slated to pick until the third round on Friday, when they’ll be on the clock with the 72nd overall pick.