When NFL owners approved a rule Tuesday allowing teams to start a drive on the 25-yard line when a fair catch is signaled on a kickoff, the league was aware a backlash was coming.
“It’s never easy for special teams coaches. They’ve coached it a certain way. They think they have an advantage, so they’re not gonna be happy with changes like this,” Rich McKay, chairman of the NFL’s competition committee, told NFL Network.
“But the changes needed to be made because, in our mind, we have the data that said it should be made.”
And backlash has ensued, with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Jason Kelce ripping the rule on the “New Heights” podcast.
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“I think this is absolutely stupid,” Travis Kelce said. “I don’t think it is making the game safer. I think it’s making it more boring and taking a lot of excitement out of the game’s opening play. This is whack.”
“We’re just getting closer and closer to getting rid of special teams,” Jason Kelce added. “The only thing left now is punt. When is somebody not going to fair-catch it and take the ball at the 25? Unless it’s just a really bad kick, right?”
The rule was approved with player safety in mind as concussion rates have increased over the past two seasons on kickoffs, according to ESPN.
“The data is very clear about the higher rate of injury on that play,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We’ve been talking about it for several years. We have not made a lot of progress on this play. This was a step that we think was appropriate to address that. But we have a lot more work to be done about how we continue to evolve going forward. Can we continue to keep this play in an exciting way but, more importantly, a safe way?”
The reaction to the new rule by the Kelce brothers came one day after Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said he sees the kickoff rule as a pathway toward “flag football.”
“My thing is, where does it stop, right?” Reid told NFL Network. “We start taking pieces, and we’ll see how this goes. But you don’t want to take too many pieces away, or you’ll be playing flag football.”
The new rule will be in place for at least one year.
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report
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