NFL News

Bears open to joining unorthodox trend following NFL's new kickoff rules

Who will boot kickoffs for the Bears this season?

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While kickers usually handle kickoff duty, that might change for NFL teams this upcoming season, including the Bears.

“Anybody with a helmet that can kick off is always in play," Bears special teams coordinator Richard Hightower told Pro Football Talk.


The NFL's new kickoff rules, which will first take action this upcoming season, have motivated teams to shift their strategies for the kickoffs.

The new kickoff format starts with the kicker alone at his own 35-yard-line. He is required to kick the ball into the "landing zone," which starts at the opponent's 20-yard line. Every other play lines up at the 40 and 30-yard lines, facing each other. Once the ball is fielded, then the players can begin hitting live.

The new rule is expected to generate more returns, meaning more chances for touchdowns. Hence, special teams coordinators are figuring out the best way to optimize returns, and also defend them.

That's where being selective with the kicker comes in. Usually, kickers are placeholders on the defensive end, rarely ever able to make tackles as the last line of defense. With the new rules in place, that becomes more vital to stopping the return team.

The Chiefs are considering allowing safety Justin Reid to kick the ball for kickoffs. Since Reid is a last-resort defender on defense, the Chiefs would rather him be the last line of defense on kickoffs than Harrison Butker.

The Bears are considering something similar. And while they haven't made any decisions yet, Hightower suggested kicker Cairo Santos can continue kickoffs, or rookie punter Tory Taylor. The teams just need to make sure the player they choose can boot the ball into the landing zone consistently.

It's a weird and difficult decision to make. And it'll probably come with a little trial and error. But Hightower understands the Bears aren't in this situation alone.

“The rest of the league got to figure it out,” Hightower said.

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