USA TODAY US Edition

Little love for tweaks to NFL’s kickoffs

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Turns out the NFL Players Associatio­n is wrong when it says the NFL owners aren’t willing to move an inch.

The league proved it is willing to go the extra yard. Five of them in fact.

By a vote of 26-6, the owners gave approval to moving kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35.

The move is good news for kickoff teams who can nowmore easily avoid the big returns by putting the ball into the end zone.

Competitio­n committee chairman Rich McKay, who says the rule was made for safety reasons, estimates there will be 5-15% fewer returns.

Cleveland Browns kick returner Josh Cribbs tweeted: “NFL rule changes are BS . . . U not making the game safer u messing a great sport, trynna hide behind safety just to add 2 games . . . smh”

That’s the consensus of readers who responded to our Game On! survey.

Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, who has kickoff home-run threat Devin Hester, said, “Before long, we’ll put the ball on the 20-yard line and eliminate the play. That’s what we’re doing a little bit.”

Reader Torsten Dreier of Jacksonvil­le, Fla., agreed. “It will just lead to nothing but touchbacks,” he commented on USA TODAY’s Facebook Sports page. “So give the offense the ball at the 20 to begin with.”

Although it’s possible the rule will make kickoffs safer, it also will limit opportunit­ies for teams to make a long return. — Reid Cherner

 ?? By Jamie Squire, Getty Images ?? Fewer happy returns: The Browns’ Josh Cribbs tweeted his displeasur­e at the NFL moving kickoffs to the 35-yard-line.
By Jamie Squire, Getty Images Fewer happy returns: The Browns’ Josh Cribbs tweeted his displeasur­e at the NFL moving kickoffs to the 35-yard-line.
 ?? By TimSharp, AP ?? Game-changer: Bears coach Lovie Smith isn’t happy that top return man Devin Hester, above, figures to be less of a weapon with the newkickoff rule.
By TimSharp, AP Game-changer: Bears coach Lovie Smith isn’t happy that top return man Devin Hester, above, figures to be less of a weapon with the newkickoff rule.

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