FOXBORO, Mass. — Bill Belichick was given a soapbox on which to vent about the new kickoff touchback rule implemented in 2016, and vent he did.
Touchbacks on kickoffs have been moved up from the 20- to the 25-yard line this season. Belichick actually was asked about the strategy of either kicking out of the end zone or forcing a return but began defending the old rule by the end of his answer.
Here’s his full rant.
“We’ll see when all the numbers come in and all of that,” Belichick said. “Again, I know for us, we look at each situation every week, and we’re not in a controlled environment here. There’s some variables even though we haven’t really had any bad conditions, but potentially there are some variables here that other teams don’t have to deal with. So, it could override any rule that you put in. Anything like that, it will be interesting to see what the league-wide numbers are and all that.
“I’d say last week was a good example of some of the big proponents of ‘we want more touchbacks.’ We saw a pretty big concussed play with a touchback, so part of the touchback is, ‘we think it’s a touchback,’ so everybody’s not really playing at the same speed because we think it’s a touchback, it’s going to be a no-play. But as a coverage team, you don’t know for sure if the guy isn’t coming out or not, so you’re playing it at full speed. Some of the concussions, some of the injuries look to me like they come on touchbacks.
“So, we want more touchbacks. Is that really solving the problem here as it’s been presented by the competition committee? I think you know how I feel about it. We’ll see how smart some of that has really been to address the problems that we think are being addressed. I don’t know. It seems like, football, we’ve got a pretty good game here. It’s been that way for a long time. It seems like the kicking game has been a great part of our game. I guess we have a lot of people that feel like the game needs to be changed, so I don’t know. We’ll have to see where all that turns out. I don’t know what all the numbers are. I couldn’t tell you for sure.”
Broncos safety Kayvon Webster suffered a concussion in Week 16 when Denver was kicking off to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs kneeled the ball for a touchback, and Webster had to be carted off after a hard block to his head. It’s possible, as Belichick said, Webster wasn’t going full speed because he saw how deep the kick had gone into the end zone, but Chiefs linebacker Terrance Smith didn’t know if the returner would take the ball out or not since his back was to the play. Webster was placed on injured reserve this week.
The new touchback rule was approved as a one-year experiment, so it could change back in 2017.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images