Change could affect Tate's value

The NFL's competition committee is proposing a significant change to kickoffs, which if passed, could have a trickle-down effect on Brandon Tate's value to the Patriots.

The change is to move the kickoff to the 35-yard line (it is currently at the 30). Other parts of the change are to eliminate all wedge blocks, spot the ball at the 25 on a touchback, and not allowing coverage players (other than the kicker) to line up more than 5 yards from the kickoff line.

The proposed change is based on player safety, as the number of injuries on kickoff returns is a concern to the NFL's competition committee.

If passed next week at the NFL's annual meeting, one would think there would be fewer returns on kickoffs, which is Tate's specialty.

Tate, who enters his third year, had two kickoff returns for touchdowns last season. He fielded 41 of the Patriots' 56 kickoffs on the season, averaging 25.8 yards per return.

If that part of the game is scaled back, it would place a greater focus on Tate's development as a receiver. He spent most of last season as No. 3 on the receiver depth chart, finishing with 24 receptions for 432 yards and three touchdowns. He was targeted 46 times, the fifth-highest total on the team.

Part of the reason Tate was active for 16 games was the explosiveness he provided on kickoff returns, but if returns are not as big of a factor in 2011, he could find himself facing a greater challenge for a spot on the 45-man game-day roster.