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Masthay sees rule-change idea as ‘quirky’

Posted by Mike Spofford on December 6, 2012 – 3:50 pm

121206masthay300The idea floated by Commissioner Roger Goodell this week in Time magazine to eliminate kickoffs from the NFL game would be a “quirky” rule change as far as Packers P Tim Masthay sees it.

Goodell was quoted in the magazine article saying one way to eliminate kickoffs — a play the league has viewed as a player-safety problem because of the number of injuries, particularly concussions, that have occurred due to high-speed collisions — would be to have a “fourth down” situation after a score. The ball is placed on the scoring team’s 30-yard line, and it’s fourth-and-15. The team that just scored would have the choice of whether to go for a first down to keep the ball (the new equivalent of an onside kick) or to punt the ball to the other team.

Masthay said a lot of the details would have to come to light, such as any rules regarding out-of-bounds punts, but he believes the rule would make a team’s punting efficiency and coverage all the more important. It would also be easier for an offensive team to steal a possession late in games.

“Your punt team would carry a little bit more weight. Instead of averaging say five times a game, you’d be out there 10 times a game,” he said.

“It would change those end-of-game scenarios. You wouldn’t have to execute an onside kick. You’d just trot your offense out there and try to get 15 yards to steal another series. It’s probably going to be tougher to execute a must-onside than an offensive play.”

Masthay is assuming the punt in that scenario would be from a regular punt formation and would not be executed as a free kick, such as after a safety is scored. The free kick would have the same formation as a kickoff, and if it’s a player-safety issue, not much would change.

That said, however, lining up in regular punt formation from a team’s own 30-yard line would tilt the field in favor of the receiving team, which would likely get much better field position than it receives now with kickoffs coming from the 35.

“A solid coverage punt, you’re going to net 40 yards. Say that’s the average, (then) offenses are going to start at the 30-yard line,” Masthay said. “Ever since they changed the kickoff to the 35, there’s been a lot of touchbacks, a lot of tackles inside the 20, not many explosive kickoff returns, so offenses haven’t been starting as far up on average.”

In the end, Masthay said if kickoffs are going to be eliminated, he’d rather see a new procedure like this than see the offense just be given the ball at a pre-determined spot, essentially eliminating any sort of kick to change possession after a score.

“Then you’re changing the game too much,” he said.

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