Add the Jets' Brad Smith to the list of big-time kickoff returners unhappy with the NFL's decision to move up kickoffs to the 35-yard line. Smith said he's a "little disappointed" by the rule change, which was approved Tuesday at the league meetings.
"It’s just a thing that’s taking away the ball from us, to get us the chance to make plays on special teams, which is a huge part of the game," Smith said Wednesday as a guest on SiriusXM's Mad Dog Radio channel. "We’ll see how it goes. Maybe there won’t be as many touchbacks but, obviously, with them moving up and how strong the kickers are there will be considerably more. So it’s disappointing.”
He's right, there will be more touchbacks and fewer returns. That stinks for Smith, who led the NFL with a 28.6-yard kickoff return average. It also stinks for him because he's a free agent.
"Maybe they know something I don’t," Smith said. "Maybe they have a plan for it. And I’m sure [special teams coordinator] Mike Westhoff has drawn up things already for us ... It just really changes the whole dynamic of a game, one of the most important plays in football. So there’s going to be a lot of coaches that spend a lot of time trying to figure it out.”
Smith said he's all for player safety, ostensibly the reason why the change was made, but he added: "At the same time, we don’t want the game to be affected. It’s a physical game and that’s why we love playing it, quite frankly. We love to play because we love the physical contact."
Smith said he wouldn't have a problem with the change if there were statistics that indicated it would increase player safety. He's waiting for the numbers.