Apparently the NFL "competition committee" (a.k.a. anti-competition committee) is proposing 4 new rule changes with regards to Kickoffs. There were rumors that initial proposals were to remove kickoffs completely from the game, but this apparently isn't the case (though it is a sign of a potential future consequence to this slippery slope). The rule changes are as follows:
1. The kickoff will be moved up to the 35 yard line: This essentially gives many kickers the ability to boot kickoffs through the end-zone forcing touch-backs and eliminating any return possibilities.
2. Touch-backs would be moved up to the 25 yard line: This is basically 5 yards of further incentive for coaches to encourage their returners to take a knee if they catch the ball in the end zone or let the ball bounce through it (also further diminishing the odds of kick returns normally).
3. All kick return wedges will be penalized: Back in 2009, the committee reduced wedges to a maximum of 2 players, so this would make kick returns more difficult further providing incentive for teams to accept touch-backs.
4. No player on the kicking team (other than the kicker) can line up more than 5 yards behind the ball: This removes any running start a tackler may have in pursuit of a returner causing the overall speed of the play to be diminished.
Personally I think these rules are terrible. I realize they are being proposed in the effort by the competition committee to "appear to improve the safety of the game," but realistically they are taking away one of the most exciting elements of football. Big returns, or return touchdowns are often the big momentum swinging play that allows for a comeback or allows for games to remain competitive in the final minutes. I personally hope that these changes are rejected, but it is looking more and more likely that they will go into effect. If Brian Mitchell were dead, he'd be rolling in his grave...