NORMAN — As football executives and coaches continue to better understand head injuries, what might change about the game itself?
One idea that’s been floated around pretty prominently is eliminating kickoffs entirely.
In a Time magazine article last December, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suggested that kickoffs could be replaced by giving the would-be kicking team the ball on its own 30-yard line with one play — a fourth-and-15 situation — to either punt or attempt a first down.
The idea was crafted by Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, who was Rutgers’ coach when Eric LeGrand injured his neck on a kickoff. He remains paralyzed today.
“It’s an off-the-wall idea,” Goodell said in Time article. “It’s different and makes you think differently. It did me.”
First-year Oklahoma assistant Jay Boulware, who has coached special teams for most of his career, said he wouldn’t be in favor of eliminating kickoffs, adding that most of the injury problems can be corrected with better coaching.
“I love kickoff coverage, first of all. I love it,” Boulware said. “I think that some of the guys that don’t like it as much probably don’t know how to coach it as well.
“I love the enthusiasm that it brings to the game. I think that, when you kickoff and you have fans in their seat … the very first kickoff of the game, there’s nothing like the first kickoff of the game and the excitement that it brings. On the other side of it, from the return standpoint, I like that part too. When you come back in the second half and the other team kicks to you and you ram it down their throats, that’s pretty exciting.
“The swings of a game can be dictated in your kickoff and kickoff return units. I don’t want to get rid of it, but it’s not my decision.”
Boulware went on to say that injuries are unavoidable in all phases of the game.
“I’ve seen guys go out and go down there and just try to run into somebody full speed, and the ball’s way over there,” Boulware said, gesturing in the opposite direction to make his point.
“You have to coach that up. Maybe they are coaching. I don’t know. I don’t ever want our kickoff guys to go one-for-one on a blocker. That doesn’t make any sense. Their job is to tackle the man with the ball, not go run into a wedge and now you can’t do anything else but do that.
“I think there’s just philosophy issues that need to be addressed other than saying let’s get rid of it … to be honest with you, that’s not where the injuries take place. A lot of the injuries take place when someone falls into the back of somebody or in a pile. It’s not any different than anywhere else on the field.”