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Bill Belichick hopes rule change leads to more kickoff return opportunities

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – NFL teams will get the ball on the 25-yard line after a touchback during the 2016 season as a result of a rule change (it used to be the 20), which New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick believes could spark more kickoff return opportunities despite his feeling the league would like to limit them.

“I’m sure this rule was put in place by the league, the competition committee, to minimize kickoffs and to encourage touchbacks where the ball will come out to the 25-yard line. Whether that’s the way it goes or not, we’ll see,” Belichick said Monday on Sirius XM NFL Radio’s “Movin’ the Chains” program, noting that teams might not be so fast to give up an additional 5 yards of field position.

“I personally like the plays in the kicking game. I think they’re good plays. I think we had a more competitive extra-point play last year [and] I’d like to see kickoffs be more competitive, with more opportunities to return. It’s an exciting play in the game.

“I like the play, but there’s obviously a strong movement by the league to take it out. So we’ll see how this affects it. It will be interesting to see how this rule works.”

Belichick said that he expects teams to experiment with kickoffs in the preseason, and it likely won’t be until the regular season that the true effects of the rule change will be felt.

“I think we saw what happened in the college game, a lot of the colleges have gone to the corner kick type philosophy,” he said.

“On the return side of it, I think you have to be ready for the kicker kicking it away and we certainly are going to have to prepare for teams that might want to corner kick and use that type of strategy. So it kind of changes our returns a little bit in terms of our rules – how we adjust to balls that are kicked outside the numbers and so forth, and what our decision-making process is in terms of bringing the ball out of the end zone, or not bringing it out.

“… Once we get into the regular season when you’re going to go with whatever you think is best, I think then we’ll see – it will vary from team to team -- how this is really going to play out.”