In recent years, the NFL has discussed ways to eliminate kickoffs and the violent collisions that occur during those plays. However, a look at the number of touchbacks in week one shows that the league is already close to eliminating kickoff returns.
During the opening week of the NFL season, there were 163 kickoffs according to data collected by TeamRankings.com. Of those kickoffs, 115 (70.6%) were not returned. The percentage of kick returns (29.4%) will likely increase, however, they are unlikely to reach the levels of 2011 (56.0%) and 2012 (55.9%).
In the eight years prior to moving kickoffs up to the 35-yard line (2011), kickoff returns ranged from 83% to 92.3%. What was once a nearly automatic play, is now seen less than one-third of the time.
The league may eventually eliminate kickoff returns all together. But at this rate, the league won’t need to change the rules…
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