The NFL has been working for quite some time to reduce the number of kickoff returns in the league each year, citing the special teams play as one of the most dangerous in the entire game.
The league willingly sacrificed one of the game’s most exciting plays, the kickoff return for touchdown, in favor of making the game safer. And it’s paying dividends, as kickoff returns have been more than cut in half in the past decade.
According to a report from Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, through the first five weeks of the season teams are averaging just 1.7 kickoff returns a game. That’s down from 4.1 kickoff returns per game in 2007.
That marks the fifth consecutive season that kickoff returns have been in decline.
The NFL began placing an emphasis on reducing the number of kicks returned when they first moved the starting point of the kickoff from the 30-yard line up to the 35-yard line. Most recently, they also moved the spot of a touchback up from the 20-yard line to the 25-yard line and modified clock rules to incentivize staying in the end zone.
And obviously they’re achieving their desired results.
As they proceed, it’ll be interesting to see if they get to the point where they’re happy with the current status of the play or if they continue phasing it out to the point where it’s removed from the game entirely.
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