The NFL is considering a new rule that may make several special teams plays look a lot like college football.
It’s all about taking the danger out of the fair catch.
The NFL competition committee submitted eight new rules or tweaks. They’ll be considered next week at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. In addition, individual NFL teams suggested nine rule changes to be considered.
The committee wants to look at kick and punt returns. It’s all to limit the alarming number of serious injuries that happen on special teams.
Here’s the language for the rule proposals:
“By Competition Committee; to put the ball in play at the receiving team’s 25-yard line when a touchback occurs from a punt.
“By Competition Committee; to put the ball in play at the receiving team’s 25-yard line if there is a fair catch on a free kick (kickoff and safety kick) behind the receiving team’s 25-yard line.”
NFL Wants to Change Fair Catch Rule to Cut Down on Special Teams Injuries
The move is more significant for kickoffs. If a returnman can call a fair catch anywhere between the 25 and end zone, the kick coverage team can chill out those kamikaze gunners.
The number of special team snaps usually aren’t overwhelming. But when it comes to injuries, the plays are over represented in the medical tent.
According to the NFL, more injuries happen on punts than on any other play. So no wonder the NFL wants to consider a rule change. One in every five concussions occurs via special teams. And 30 percent of of major knee injuries happen on these plays. Plus, 29 percent of other lower body injuries occur on punts/kicks.
The NFL saw fewer injuries last fall as compared to 2021. They dropped by 5.6 percent. But the numbers are deceptive. Concussions increased. There were 23 more than in 2021. And the increase came from the quarterbacks. The NFL placed more of a spotlight on quarterback concussions after what happened with Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. So concussions, per se, might not have increased. But the diagnosis of this kind of head injuries have gone up.
The NFL competition committee needs the approval of 24 of the 32 teams to approve any of the rule changes. College football made the fair catch change in 2018.
Did you know that the fair catch has been a play in the NFL for decades. The Green Bay Packers used the fair catch for the first time in a game in 1921 against the Evansville Crimson Giants.
We’ll know if there are more tweaks next week to this 100-plus-years old play.