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NFL

Players want kickoffs to stay part of NFL

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 8:22 p.m.

DENVER — The eight teams left in the NFL playoffs can thank their special teams for a good part of their success. That's one reason players are still upset commissioner Roger Goodell has floated the idea of abolishing kickoffs.

Ravens return specialist Jacoby Jones, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season, said if the league gets rid of the electrifying plays, “I'm going to retire. I will go (ballistic). ... If they take out kickoffs, they're going to hate me in this league.”

The idea is only a suggestion, one Goodell says the league will consider in the offseason for safety reasons, but players are vehemently opposed to such a radical change they contend would shake the foundation of America's most popular sport.

“I haven't found anybody that likes the idea because, first of all, the sport is called football, so you can't keep taking the foot part of it out,” Broncos punter Britton Colquitt said. “It would also be really confusing if they were like, ‘Stay tuned for kickoff,' and there was no kickoff, you know? What are they going to say, ‘Stay tuned for the start of the game'?”

Abolishing kickoffs also would eliminate the onside kick as an option — like the one the Saints used to turn the tide against the Colts coming out of halftime in the Super Bowl three years ago — and it would prune some pizazz from the game, such as Desmond Howard's kickoff return for a touchdown that gave Brett Favre his only championship ring in the mid-1990s.

Of the 13 kickoff-return TDs this season, seven came from teams that reached the playoffs as the Ravens, Colts, Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks and Vikings all sported resumes that boasted at least one of the backbreakers.

Players say rules changes like banning the blocking wedge, moving the kickoff up five yards and limiting the number of players who can line up on one side of the ball for an onside kick have already lessened the number of violent collisions in games.

“If you've got to do something about it, if you still feel like it's injuries, then move it up to the 40 and then it's like 99 percent of the time it's going to be a touchback,” Colquitt said.

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