By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - The new rule moving kickoffs up to the 35-yard line from the 30 is generating a lot of conversation. And it should. Those 15 feet could change things pretty drastically in terms of strategy, scoring and even personnel. We'll get into more of the kickoff nuts-and-bolts later, but for now, it was interesting to hear Bill Belichick state unequivocally that the league wants kickoffs to disappear. When a question was posed saying, "If the intention of the league is to almost eliminate kickoffs . . ."
"That's what they told us," Belichick interrupted. "I'm not speaking for anyone else. That's what they told us, that they want to eliminate the play."UPDATE: NFL spokesman Greg Aiello responded to Belichick's comments in an email."(Chairman of the Competition Committee) Rich McKay and (NFL Vice President) Ray Anderson say thats not accurate," Aiello wrote. "They said the Competition Committees position was that they wanted to 'shorten the field' and that the movement of the kickoff line would potentially reduce the number of kickoffs to be returned. They said they are unaware of anyone saying that it was intended to 'eliminate' the kickoff return."Belichick predicted that the expected reduction in returned kicks will make teams mull their roster decisions differently. "If, instead of covering 60 kickoffs in a year you think you're only gonna be covering 30, then is that coverage player as important, or -- on the flip side of it -- is the return game?" he asked. "If you're going to be returning 30 instead of 60, are the guys who block on the kickoff return(as important).If you think you're gonna be returning more punts than kickoffs (there's a decision to weigh). Usually you're going to be returning more kickoffs than puntsbutif you think you'll bereturning more punts than kickoffs, then maybe you put more of a priority on your punt returner than your kickoff returner."The league's been tweaking its kickoff return rules for the past few seasons thanks to the calamitous injuries that occur when coverage teams have taken a 50-yard running start and crashed into members of the return team. This rule is the most drastic. Tom E. Curran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran
By Tom E. Curran