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NFL Moves Kickoffs Back to 35-Yard Line


In an effort to emphasize safety on kickoff returns, the NFL has voted to move kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35.

The rule change was voted on by owners at the NFL Annual Meeting on Tuesday in New Orleans.

On Monday, the league's competition committee proposed to not only move kickoffs to the 35-yard line but also put touchbacks at the 25 and eliminate the blocking wedge altogether.

The proposals spurred a "healthy debate," according to committee chairman Rich McKay, and in the end owners settled on moving kickoffs to the 35.

It's hoped that the rule change minimizes the potential for violent collisions on kickoff returns.

"This is a rule 100 percent based on player safety," McKay told reporters in a press conference. "We've seen higher rates of injuries than we are comfortable with, and we're trying to remedy it."

Originally, kickoffs were positioned at the 40-yard line. In 1974, the NFL decided to move kickoffs back to the 35. Twenty years later, the league moved it back to the 30.

The Redskins have been among the best in the league in kick coverage in recent years, so this rule change should help special teams coach Danny Smith.

Last year, the Redskins were ranked second in the league in kick coverage, allowing 19.0 yards per return.

Kicker Graham Gano averaged 65.9 yards on 71 kickoffs and produced nine touchbacks.

It's possible that the rule change could result in an increase in touchbacks for Gano and other NFL kickers.

That would appear to minimize the value of kick returners.

Then again, a returner like the Redskins' Brandon Banks -- who possesses dynamic, game-breaking speed -- could become key for teams aiming to get extra yardage on returns.

Last year, Banks provided a spark as a kick return specialist. The 5-7, 150-pound speedster averaged 25.1 yards per return last season, including a 96-yard kick return for a touchdown in Week 8 vs. Detroit.

In addition to the kickoff rule change, owners also expanded replay to allow officials to review all scoring plays at any time during games.

McKay said coaches have complained that there's too much pressure to challenge scoring plays, especially in road games.

"If there's a doubt, we think the referee should review it," McKay told reporters.

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