Don't assume the touchback

NEW ORLEANS -- One of the objectives of moving the kickoff up to the 35-yard line -- which owners are expected to vote on Tuesday -- is to limit injuries on returns. One thought is that more teams will be content to have kickers boom the ball through the end zone, settling for a touchback, which would be the 25-yard line.

It will be interesting to see how the Patriots vote on this, in part because no team had more kickoffs last season (100).

Opponents had an average drive start of the 27.8 yard line against the Patriots last year (split between Stephen Gostkowski and Shayne Graham). Simply based on that number, one might think the Patriots would be happy to have Gostokowski boom the ball through the end zone for a touchback.

But one point that came up in casual discussions at the NFL's annual meeting is that teams -- under the new rule -- could be more enticed to pin opponents inside the 20-yard line with high-arcing kickoffs angled to the sideline and placed closer to the goal-line. Kickers who have the ability to master that skill could be valued more.

In other words, don't necessarily assume the touchback.

Last week, the potential rule change was viewed from a returner's perspective. How it affects placekickers is also part of the discussion.