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NFL Approves New Rule Changes, Sorry Devin Hester

The NFL's competition committee has voted on a number of rule changes for the upcoming season, the most controversial of which is moving the kickoff from the 30 to the 35. Many feel that this will in effect take the kickoff return out of the game. Most kickers can already put the ball near or in the end zone now, with an extra 5 yards the majority of kickers should be able to force touchbacks on most plays.

There was also a proposal to make touchbacks come to the 25 as a tradeoff, but that was voted down. The reason for the new kickoff rule is simply player safety. As Saints coach Sean Payton put it, "The bottom line is it's ... the highest risk of injury play."

Six teams voted against the new rule, most of which, according to competition committee head Rich McKay, were teams with good kick return games.

As for the six no votes, McKay said: "The objections were, 'Hey, you're affecting my team.' Clearly, some teams have good kick returners and they said, 'What if there's 10 percent less returns?'

"We have no answer," McKay added, "but player safety will always trump any other consideration."

There's no doubt that kickoffs are probably the most violent play in football. In fact, new 49ers coach John Harbaugh said that four times as many head and neck injuries occur during kickoffs than any other play in football. I've certainly had my issues with some of the things the NFL has done under the guise of player safety... but that's a shocking statistic.