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NFL Kickoff Rule Change Will Hurt Cleveland Browns in Particular

If you have not heard by now, the NFL Owners voted to change the kickoff rule next season so that teams would kick off from the 35 yard line instead of the 30 yard line. The other parts of the original proposal did not go through; touchbacks will remain at the 20, and teams can still use two-man wedge blocks.

This will most certainly increase the number of touchbacks next season; in the case of the Baltimore Ravens, they might not have to cover a kickoff all season due to the leg of Billy Cundiff.

The rule ends up hurting a few teams in the NFL who rely on their special teams players for a competitive advantage. One of those teams is the Cleveland Browns, thanks to having explosive return man Joshua Cribbs. Cribbs did not have many great returns last year due to being banged up, but teams still respected him by trying to kick the ball short or even out of bounds. Now they can just boot it over his head, and Cribbs isn't happy about it:

"NFL rule changes are B.S. U not making the game any safer. U messing a great a sport. Trynna (trying to) hide behind safety just to add 2 games." -Cribbs via Twitter

Another way this hurts the Browns? Before last season, the team gave Cribbs a lucrative contract, assuming he could be a game-changing return man. The rules have almost negated the benefit of paying Cribbs the additional money.

I wish their was a way this rule could be changed back, but once it is voted on, it is official and we're going to have to deal with it. I wonder if teams will start strategizing ways to counter this, such as having two return men split wide on the field.

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.