John Harbaugh Reacts to NFL’s New Kickoff and Helmet Rules

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The Ravens coaching staff has taken an active role in helping to re-write the NFL’s rule book this offseason.

Head Coach John Harbaugh was instrumental in developing a new catch rule, and he and Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg recently helped transform the league’s kickoff rule.

The video below outlines exactly what changed with the new kickoff rule, which was approved last week during league meetings.

Kickoffs have been a point of conversation in recent years as the league looks for ways to make the game safer, particularly in terms of head injuries. The risk of concussions is higher on kickoffs because of the high-speed collisions, and the new rule aims to reduce those by removing the running start.

“Everybody had the same objective: We want to keep the exciting play in the game, but we want to make it safer – especially for concussions,” Harbaugh said. “I think we did that.”

It’s unclear exactly how the rule will change kickoffs, but Harbaugh expects the play to become more exciting as a result.

“I actually think there could be more returns, because there’s more incentive to return the ball, because it’s going to slow the kickoff play down a bit – but that’s the idea,” he said.

The league will continue to monitor and tweak the kickoff rules in future years as it works towards improving player safety. Some have suggested that kickoffs could eventually become extinct, but Harbaugh had some other suggestions before going down the path of eliminating it.

“If we have to go a little further next year and incentivize the kickoff, the deep kickoff more, maybe we kick it out of the back of the end zone and put the ball at the 20- [yard line],” he said.

“Maybe we take it another step and make it really fun for everybody: If we kick it through the uprights, you give the kicking team a point. We’re going to be for that – we have [Justin] Tucker, right? But imagine how much fun either one of those would be? So now a touchback becomes worth watching. We make the game more fun. Those are things I think we all talked about and people are interested in, so we’ll see what happens.”

In addition to the kickoff change, owners also approved reviewing potential disqualifications when a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. The helmet rule, which was approved in March, is a change that Harbaugh supports.

“The helmet rule is going to be a great rule,” Harbaugh said. “That’s a direction that we coach – we already coach that way to get it out of the game. I think 95 percent of the coaches in this league coach that way, and the other five percent have to get on board. The helmet is a protective device; it’s not a weapon.

“If they eject somebody out of there, it’s going to go on one of those hits that is going to deserve it. I think the thing I like about that is they’re going to go back to New York. It’s not going to be like real time, ‘Did I see it or not?’ They’re going to go back and look at what you see as fans.”

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