HOUSTON – One of the most unpopular rule changes in recent years was established at a recent NFL owners meeting.
During a privileged session, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell got owners to flip their votes to pass a new fair catch rule for kickoffs.
It’s been criticized by New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, among others.
The rule places the football at the 25-yard line automatically if the receiving team fair catches the kickoff inside its own 25-yard line. Harbaugh predicted it may have unintended consequences, including potential head injuries from high-speed collisions.
Count Texans special teams coordinator Frank Ross among the critics of the new rule.
“Just keep playing football, man,” said Ross, who coached the NFL’s top-ranked special teams last season. “Let’s keep football tough.”
There’s a widely held perception that the new rule is soft and takes away an aspect of the game.
It was adopted with player safety in mind.
“Yeah, I like to compete,” Ross said. “I like to play every down we can get. When we get a chance to cover a kick, let’s go out there with our hair on fire. We get a chance to return it. We want those guys to get shot out of a cannon and go. I got it. I’m 100 percent in favor of player safety, so anything to elongate the existence of the NFL and our game, great, and player safety. I know a lot of guys make a good living playing on special teams, and I don’t want the fabric of the game to change. So, hopefully, we stay within those parameters.
“Whatever the rules are, doesn’t matter what game you’re playing, you get three points for shooting it from this distance in basketball, everything else is two, free throws are one. Those are the rules, so we’ll play within that scheme. If that’s going to save time, waving a fair catch, end-of-half situation or you’ve got to learn how to squib it and get it through, you’ve got to judge yard mark, what’s the average return. That starting field position, you guys have known this, that chart doesn’t lie. Every yard means percentage up on opportunity to score on the offensive end or defensive side to defend.”
Aaron Wilson is a Texans and NFL reporter for KPRC 2 and click2houston.com