Belichick opposes kickoff rules proposal

NEW ORLEANS -- New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is against the proposed rules to revamp kickoffs.

BelichickBelichickBelichick, speaking to a small group of reporters at the NFL owners meeting, expressed confusion and dismay over the competition committee's recommendation to move kickoffs up to the 35-yard line from the 30 and spot touchbacks at the 25-yard line instead of the 20.

The competition committee even considered removing kickoffs completely before coming up with this proposal.

"Pretty complicated proposal," Belichick said. "I don't like the idea of eliminating the kickoff from the game. I think it's one of the most exciting plays in football. It looks like the competition committee is trying to eliminate that play. I don't know that's really good for the game."

Safety is believed to be the chief concern, but after attending a presentation Sunday night about the kickoff proposals, Belichick didn't seem to know what the motivation was for change.

The proposal also calls for the ban of all wedge blocks, when multiple players assemble to clear a path for the return man. Wedge blocks result in violent collisions. The NFL adopted a rule that reduced the allowable number of players in a wedge from three to two in 1999.

"From the presentation last night, I don't know that it's because of head injuries," Belichick said. "And the ones they showed, there weren't very many of them. So I don't know. I think you should really talk to the competition committee. They're the ones, really, that proposed the rule.

"There's a lot of components to it, four different elements to it. It's kind of a complicated rule. ... It's pretty confusing. I mean, we're moving the kickoff up and the touchbacks out."

The rule also would help negate Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski as a weapon because he covers more distance than his peers. He averaged 67.9 yards per kickoff last year, fifth in the league, before a thigh injury sidelined him in November. He generated a touchback 35.7 percent of the time, second in the league behind Baltimore Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff.

Miami Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter was next in the AFC East with a 65.8-yard average and 20 percent touchback rate. Buffalo Bills kicker Rian Lindell averaged 63.3 yards and 11.9 percent, and New York Jets kicker Nick Folk was at 62.0 yards and 8.6 percent.

The extra 5 yards will do them -- and their coverage units -- wonders.

ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton calculated how much the different spots would impact the game and figured the number of kickoffs last year that would have been touchbacks under the proposal would've risen from 416 to about 800.