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Starkey: Goodell gone mad?

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Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, 11:32 p.m.
 

Mike Wallace reacted as any normal person would: He shook his head and laughed.

I was attempting to explain to Wallace the ridiculous idea that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had broached in a recent issue of Time magazine.

The first part of the idea called for eliminating kickoffs. The second part was downright insane: Instead of a team kicking off after it scores a touchdown or field goal, it would retain the ball with a fourth-and-15 on its 30-yard line. It would then choose to go for it or punt.

“Huh?” Wallace said.

Exactly.

I explained again.

“You serious?” he said.

Apparently, Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano — the genius who tells defensive players to torpedo the victory formation — is responsible for the original concept here. Goodell, looking to further reduce the high injury rate on kick returns, took it seriously.

It's only an idea, not a proposal. But the fact that the man who runs the NFL discussed it in public is downright scary.

“It doesn't make any sense,” Wallace said. “Wow. Fourth-and-15 on the 30? That's stupid.”

Yes, and so is another change Goodell has discussed: increasing the playoff field from 12 to 14 or 16 teams.

Obviously, that would be nothing more than a money grab on the owners' part. They can't get the 18-game regular season Goodell so desperately wants, so they'll bulk up the postseason, instead, and water down an already soaked playoff field in the process.

Expanded playoffs are going to happen. Bet on it.

As for the kickoff rule, I could see Goodell and the NFL Competition Committee eliminating them. But fourth-and-15 from the 30? No way.

“You ever heard of doing too much?” said linebacker James Harrison. “They're trying to do too much now.”

Free safety Ryan Clark was more pointed in his criticism of Goodell.

“When he got the job, he said his legacy was going to be player safety,” Clark said. “I think now he's trying to make his legacy completely changing the game of football. There are guys in this league who only have jobs because of special teams. You also take away the essence of football by getting rid of kickoffs.

“So if he wants to go down as the man who changed football forever, he's well on his way.”

OK then, what if Clark or any player could be Goodell for a day? What change would he make, if he had only one?

A sampling of answers:

• Clark, Harrison and Troy Polamalu all would eliminate the “high-low block.” As it stands, a defensive player engaged with a blocker can, in certain instances, be legally cut by another blocker.

“That just causes injury,” Clark said. “What if we decide on the first play to tell our defensive ends to hold up their tackle and James or LaMarr (Woodley) to take his knees out. People would call us dirty. But they do it to Casey (Hampton) all the time.”

• Byron Leftwich would like to see more legalized celebrating (presumably without anyone breaking ribs by tripping into the end zone).

“I think guys work too hard to get a flag for over-celebrating if they score an 80-yard touchdown,” he said.

How about choreographed group celebrations?

“We're a team,” Leftwich said. “The way the rules are, it makes the guy who scores turn into an individual. You should be able to celebrate however you want.”

• Several players, including Maurkice Pouncey, Drew Butler and Ramon Foster, wouldn't change a thing.

• Will Allen wants a change in pass interference, to where unless it's egregious, it's merely a 10-yard foul.

• Wallace jokingly said he wants Thanksgiving and Christmas off, but only for the Steelers (haven't they taken enough days off?).

I'd go for these three changes:

1. Move extra points back 20 yards — and give the defense the point if they block it.

2. Terminate ESPN's “C'mon Man” segment.

3. Install a headshot replay specialist at every game.

The game is too fast for officials to make accurate real-time calls on head hits, which are game-changers at 15 yards apiece. If one is called, send it up for a quick replay just to make sure someone such as, oh, Clark, didn't hit someone such as, oh, Victor Cruz in the chest instead of the head.

And if it's not too much trouble, maybe one of the headshot guys could do a quick check on the commissioner — just to make sure he's thinking clearly.

Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 “The Fan.” His columns appear Thursdays and Sundays. He can be reached at jraystarkey@gmail.com.

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