Clayton Fejedelem played quite a bit of safety last season, but he is best as a special teamer.
Fejedelem was even voted to be the alternate for the Pro Bowl last season as a special teams player. As you can imagine, it is something he is very passionate about.
“[The kickoff is] probably the most physical one play in the game. That’s what sets you up as a great show,” Fejedelem told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “People don’t realize how those few yards help offensive and defensive drive starts based on field position. You see the best teams that go to the playoffs every year in the top in drive starts. It’s a huge aspect of the game. You take that out, you’re just levelling the playing field and taking a lot out of the game.”
Fejedelem cleary understands the importance of good special teams play, and he puts his money where his mouth is. He had 15 tackles on special teams last year.
However, it seems changes are coming to the kickoff this offseason.
Some of those possible changes include no wedge blocking, only a one-yard running start for the coverage unit, and only eight men up front for the return team. Of course, these changes, as well as others, are still being discussed by the league.
Fejedelem isn’t sure these changes will effect him personally as a coverage player.
“It’s hard to tell,” Fejedelem said. “You can speculate you might be able to beat other players in space or get a little jump on them. But I couldn’t tell you. A lot of unknowns.”
It is easy to see these changes could mean teams will need more athletic guys like Fejedelem as opposed to bigger guys necessary to beat wedge blocks. It feels like the coverage and blocking schemes for special teams will need complete philosophy changes.
However, the core concept of the kickoff won’t change.
“My personal opinion is I don’t care,” Fejedelem said about playing kickoffs. “There’s that physical aspect to football. There’s just a (brutality) to it and that’s what people enjoy. You know what you’re getting yourself into. I’m all for fewer head injuries, but at the end of day if you’re taking on an individual directly, you’re not diving into him and you’re playing with your eyes up, the head injuries really aren’t there.”
Here’s to hoping the NFL finds a way to keep this aspect of the game in tact while making it safer for players.