Billy “White Shoes” Johnson.
These are just a few of the most feared men during a kick or punt return. But will the NFL even have special teams in a few years?
It seems like the NFL comes up with new rules each year to make the game safer, but each year the kickoffs and punts seem to get easier and easier, if they happen at all. Very rarely do you even see the opponent actually attempt the return. Most of the time, the returner is already walking to their respective sideline before the ball even lands.
Growing up watching games, the returns were some of the best and most exciting plays. I would watch as the returner would run to the right or left, have nothing there, and then reverse to the complete opposite side of the field and pick up 40, 50, 60 yards, or even run it back for a touchdown.
With most new rule changes in the NFL, the owners’ and committees’ top priority is safety, which is totally understandable. It’s obvious that returns in the NFL are not the same as they used to be. The NFL will do everything in its power to make the players safe.
With this new revised rule, they are tinkering with it a bit, putting it on a one-year trial.
Owners approved the proposal on a one-year trial basis. https://t.co/PSS42huSTX— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 23, 2023
Longer answer from competition committee chair Rich McKay on the new kickoff rule, and how special teams coordinators — who unanimously opposed the change — may adjust. pic.twitter.com/p6QBq1Y4t0— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 23, 2023
According to Axios.com, the return rate in the NFL has dropped tremendously. A little more than a decade ago, 95% of the kickoffs were returned. They expect that number to be approximately 31% next season.
So, in all honesty, to prevent the possibility of concussions and other possible injuries, will we see a complete omission of special teams? Will there be any other possible ways to transition from offense to defense for teams? If that ever did happen, what would happen to some of the players? For a lot of guys, special teams is their only chance to make a name for themselves and prove to their coaches and teammates they are worth a roster spot.
Let’s see how this one-year trial goes. Who knows? This could potentially not affect the game at all, and we don’t even notice. Or we could see the flip side, no special teams at all in a few years.