Chicago Sun-Times

Bears chairman feels better about kickoff rule change

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A year ago, when the NFL moved the kickoff yardage line from the 30 to 35, the Bears were among six teams to vote against the decision.

But Bears chairman George McCaskey said he was encouraged by the statistics revealed at the NFL owners meeting last week in Palm Beach, Fla.

"They said it was for player safety," McCaskey said last week, "and we didn't necessarily see a direct connection."

According to a league spokesman, concussions were reduced more than 40 percent on kickoffs. That decrease, in part, can be attributed to fewer returned kickoffs.

In 2010, there were 416 touchbacks, with Baltimore's Billy Cundiff leading the league with 40 of them. But, in 2011, there were 1,120 touchbacks, and 11 players had more than 40 of them.

That, of course, affected the Bears more than most clubs. They still ranked fifth in the NFL with an average starting kickoff point at the 23.6-yard line. But that was nearly eight full yards fewer than in 2010.

McCaskey said they didn't bring up the notion of moving the kickoff yardage line back to the 30.

"We still have the most prolific kick returner in the history of the game," McCaskey said, referring to Devin Hester, "but we're in favor of player health and safety."

Recently, the NCAA announced that they would follow the NFL's lead and move the kick off starting point to the 35.

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This page contains a single entry by Sean Jensen published on April 2, 2012 10:54 AM.

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