Eric LeGrand is a living example of what the NFL aimed to eliminate when the league decided to move the kickoff up five yards from the 30-yard-line to the 35. The move has led to massive jumps in touchbacks which has increased player safety (less plays demanding massive collisions involving men running great distances downfield), but it’s nearly eliminated the importance of the electrifying kick returner.

The former Rutgers defensive lineman was paralyzed while covering a kickoff, and although he’s steadily making progress and remains confident that he’ll regain the ability to walk, his life has been drastically altered. He’ll never play football again, and his recovery is aimed at merely performing normal human functions, with walking clearly at the top of that list.

However, LeGrand had an unexpected critique of the NFL at the end of his guest Monday Morning Quarterback column while he filled in for the vacationing Peter King. You need to stop whatever you’re doing and read his column in its entirety right now, but this quick point in the “10 things I think I think” section has everyone talking.

Take it from someone who has gotten injured on a kickoff: I think kickoffs in the NFL should return to the way they used to be, because lots of football players can make a career out of playing on special teams, and the new system takes some of the thrill and excitement of the game out.

There is some accepted, and known risk that players take on whenever they step onto a field, even for practice. LeGrand sounds very much like a man who knew those risks, and is content with the fact that he suffered his severe injury while playing a game he loves.

His line of thinking isn’t a new one, as it’s an argument we heard often last offseason when the NFL’s competition committee was debating the kickoff change. But it’s different hearing it from LeGrand, and he’s right.

There will always be a segment of the football-watching population whose thirst for blood exceeds the appetite of normal blood consumption. These people typically have bumper stickers proclaiming that the south will rise again, and they’re disgusted with pinko babyism any time a rule is passed which aims to protect players from traumatic head injuries. Those rules–like the recent changes made to protect defenseless receivers–are needed, because although players do indeed accept a risk, using bodies as missiles consistently is excessive, and it subjects players to unnecessary harm.

Those rules are legislating technique, and changing the way that players tackle. There has been and will continue to be complaints about rules changes, because hating change is something that humans thoroughly enjoy. But like our ancestors before us who developed opposable thumbs, the players will adjust, and so will the fans, and we’ll all move on.

The kickoff placement, however, isn’t an alteration. It’s essentially taken away an entire segment of the game, making kickoffs nearly irrelevant, and the resulting touchback a formality.


And now the links part of the links post…

  • Will the Drew Brees contract affect Matt Ryan? Probably, because every contract affects everyone, and everyone always wants more money than everyone else. Also, money. [SB Nation Atlanta]
  • Elvis Dumervil was arrested yesterday and charged with felony aggravated assault. In very related news…when does training camp start? [Eye On Football]
  • Titus Young wants to be useful and prove that he’s not an unhinged idiot. So, kick return specialist it is. [Detroit Free Press]
  • Aaron Rodgers had an amazing 2011 season, and before fading late he was on pace to join Brees and Tom Brady, and also cruise past Dan Marino’s single-season passing yards mark. But given who low he ranked in attempts per game, is it possible that he was actually underutilized? [Packerpedia]
  • Ex-Packer cornerback Craig Newsome talks about his addiction to pain killers, with his wife calling it a “tornado of hell”. [Tyler Dunne]
  • Once the deadline to sign franchised players passes later this afternoon at 4 p.m. ET (more on that a little later), we won’t have anything else to talk about for the next week other than Ed Reed and his cryptic holdout threats. So, get ready to talk about Ed Reed and his cryptic holdout threats…a lot. [Jason La Canfora on Twitter]
  • Speaking of Reed, don’t ever spill milk around him. His cry reflexes initiate instantly. [Total Steelers]
  • Stephen Tulloch thinks Greg Jennings should worry about Greg Jennings. [Pride of Detroit]
  • DeSean Jackson is a man who’s filled with constant inspiration. [Inside The Iggles]

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