Matt Eberflus

NFL's new kickoff rule may not work as intended per Bears coach

Matt Eberflus explained why he believes the NFL's new kickoff will lead to more returns, not fewer

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Ahead of the mandatory minicamp for the Bears between June 13-15, one area they are forced to work on is the league's new kickoff rules.

The NFL passed one of the most controversial rule changes in recent memory when owners got together for the spring meetings in Minneapolis. For one year, if a player receiving a kickoff signals for a fair catch anywhere inside the 25-yard line, the offense will start with the ball at the 25, regardless of where the ball was fielded.

The idea is that the new rule will help promote player safety, however the rule has been nearly universally panned by coaches and players. On Tuesday, Bears head coach Matt Eberflus shared his thoughts on the new rule and he believes the way teams react will be the opposite of the intended effect.

“I think we’ll get more squib kicks, I think you’ll get more drop kicks, more drive kicks, those types of things, and make guys return it,” Eberflus said. “I suspect you’ll see more returns than less. That’s just what I’m thinking right now, but we’ll see what happens.”

The NFL projects that kickoff returns will drop 7%, from 38% to 31% due to the change. They also believe that concussions will drop 15%.

Many coaches fear that the rule continues a trend of limiting special teams that could result in the third phase of the game becoming less and less important. According to multiple reports, the Bears were one of five teams that voted against the new rule.

Here's how the new rule reads:

ARTICLE 4. PUTTING BALL IN PLAY AFTER FAIR CATCH. After a fair catch is made, or is awarded as the result of fair-catch interference, the receiving team has the option of putting the ball in play by either a:

    (a) fair-catch kick (drop kick or placekick without a tee) from the spot of the catch (or the succeeding spot after enforcement of any applicable penalties or rule) (3-10 and 11-4-3), or

    (b) snap from the spot of the catch (or the succeeding spot after enforcement of any applicable penalties), unless a player on the receiving team makes a fair catch of a free kick behind the receiving team's 25-yard line, in which case the ball will be put in play at the receiving team's 25-yard line.
Note: A receiver may make or be awarded a fair catch in his end zone. If there is fair-catch interference or illegal contact with the receiver after he has made a fair catch.


The league will review the rule after one year.

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