NFL Executive Stephen Jones Expects Kickoff Rule Change for Next Season

  • Todd Archer, ESPN Staff WriterFeb 27, 2024, 03:50 PM ET


      Todd Archer is an NFL reporter at ESPN and covers the Dallas Cowboys. Archer has covered the NFL since 1997 and Dallas since 2003. He joined ESPN in 2010. You can follow him on Twitter at @toddarcher.

INDIANAPOLIS — When the NFL opens play next season, Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones — who is a member of the Competition Committee — expects a change in the kickoff rule.

Jones said he anticipates the committee to present to ownership in the spring meetings a one-year alternative that will make returns part of the game again. During the week, different options were presented — including the XFL model in which the kicking team lined up at the opponents 35 and the return team lined up at the 30 with only the kicker and return allowed to move until the ball is touched.

Of the 2,698 kickoffs in 2023, only 587 were returned with 1,970 touchbacks and 92 fair catches.

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A handful of special teams’ coaches were involved in the meetings this week, including Cowboys coach John Fassel, who has said he likes the old XFL rule.

“I think everybody wants something different,” Jones said. “They don’t want a ceremonial play. They want it to be a real play and we just got to do it in a way that’s safe for the players so you don’t have the injury rate that we’ve had in the past; that it’s more in line with what a typical football play is. So I think that’s really important … I think it can be a positive play that the fans would really enjoy.”

The committee is still working through a rule change regarding the hip-drop tackle, but Jones believe it is something that can be officiated in a game.

“It’s got to be defined the right way but I think it can be,” Jones said. “I think it’s a play that, me personally, (it’s) certainly not something anyone condones. It’s a play that needs to come out. The question is how we do that. I think it’s going to be all of the above, in my opinion, but it’s got to be education to the players that this is not what we want.

“I think there are probably going to be fines involved in it, at all levels, and then I think at some point, it’s a little tougher, but a lot of people think it can be officiated. Not everybody but a lot of people do.”

2024-02-27 20:50:00
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