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After years of simply trying to reduce the number of kickoffs
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, changes finally are being made to the kickoff play in an effort to make it safer. So how safe does the “most dangerous play in the game” have to become before the NFL will choose permanently to keep it?
In a new online question-and-answer session with fans, Packers CEO Mark Murphy offers a summary regarding the current status of the kickoff.
“As we鈥檝e discussed here before, the kickoff is by far the most dangerous play in the game,” Murphy writes. “You are five times more likely to suffer a concussion on a kickoff than a play from scrimmage. The kickoff is so dangerous because the collisions are often at full speed. I was part of the meeting this week in New York. The discussions were very productive. The special teams coaches came forward with a number of recommendations that should make the play safer. The recommendations included eliminating the two-man wedge, eliminating the running start for the kickoff coverage team, and requiring eight players on the return team to be within 15 yards of their restraining line. The changes should make the play more like the punt, where blockers are running alongside the players on the coverage unit. We鈥檙e very hopeful that these changes will result in fewer injuries on a kickoff, but we will continue to monitor this closely. We鈥檙e hopeful that these change will allow us to keep the kickoff in the game.”
Murphy, who previously has made it clear that the kickoff play remains on a “short leash” and that it could still go away, doesn’t elaborate on how safe the kickoff must become in order to save it. But if the concussion rate during kickoffs remains five times greater than in normal scrimmage plays, there’s surely an ideal ratio that the NFL hopes to achieve.
Is it 1:1? Or is 2:1 good enough? No one has provided that information, yet.
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, there’s a good chance that this is less about reducing concussions and more about removing from the game a play that carries with it the greatest risk of a catastrophic — and possibly fatal — injury.
Nearly nine years ago, then-Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer created a stir with a matter-of-fact assessment of the risk of playing NFL football:聽 鈥淭he truth of the matter is . . . somebody is going to die here in the NFL. It鈥檚 going to happen.鈥?The “most dangerous play in the game” presents the greatest risk of that, since players who are moving in opposite directions at full speed and who dip their helmets at impact risk the kind of upper spinal cord injury that will induce paralysis and, even worse, end life.
Think of the consequences to the NFL if a player pays the ultimate price. Congress instantly would convene hearings and commence drafting legislation. Debates would emerge about the morality of watching football (those debates already have popped up from time to time regarding chronic the health risks of the game). Eventually, a federal commission with the power to oversee and regulate football could emerge, which likely is the we-know-what’s-best-for-us NFL’s worst-case business scenario.
So even if avoiding a fatality isn’t the impetus for the ongoing examination of the kickoff, it should be. And it’s no surprise that the NFL won’t say “we don’t want someone to die on the field” when addressing its concerns about the play. The fact that people in the league routinely call it “the most dangerous play in the game” has to give the league’s lawyers nearly as many chest pains as an FBI raid on their offices, apartments, and/or hotel rooms. If people like Murphy were to admit that the league fears a fatality — and if a fatality were to happen — it could be game over, literally.
Coming off a troubling season, New York Giants cornerback Eli Apple seemingly has grown up.
A bad attitude led to a suspension for the final game of the 2017 season and a couple of benchings earlier in the campaign has been replaced by a business-like approach.
That's rapid progression for a soon-to-be 23-year-old who appeared to have worn out his welcome two years after the Giants drafted him with the 10th pick overall.
The change didn't just come. It's been coming since Pat Shurmur was named coach and Dave Gettleman took as general manager. They met with Apple after a 3-13 season and told him he would be starting with a clean slate.
"It is definitely important for me
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, first impressions," Apple said. "I just wanted to show that I was a hard worker and just continue to show that even now as we continue to go on with these practices, staying on top of that and trying to get better every day."
Apple is going to be a key piece for the Giants in James Bettcher's 3-4 system. He has the talent to be a lock-down cornerback, which would give the Giants two. Janoris Jenkins is on the other side of the field.
"They have a lot of confidence in me," Apple said of the coaching staff. "They told me that they feel I am a really good player and as long as I listen to them, I can get better and become a Pro Bowl player. I see that as well. With my athleticism, I see myself, especially in this defense, I see myself as excelling in it and I am looking forward to the season.is"
Apple started 11 of 14 games as a rookie and finished with two interceptions, 49 tackles, and a fumble recovery, playing on a team that went 11-5 and earned a playoff berth. Last year was a horror. He started seven of 11 games
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, didn't have an interception, and was suspended for the final game of the season for getting into an argument with coaches about playing on a scout team. The Giants called it conduct detrimental to the team.
Safety Landon Collins didn't hesitate to say last season that Apple needed to grow up.
Apple won't say what caused the turnaround, but it's obvious something has changed.
On the field now, Apple is all smiles and ready to work. The former Ohio State product frequently goes over to Jenkins and picks his brain.
"Like when I see Jackrabbit make a play on the other side, I think to myself, 'OK, it's time for me to make a play if the quarterback comes my way,'" Apple said of Jenkins. "But it's always fitting that I'm trying to pick his brain because he was All-Pro, Pro Bowl corner, so he's definitely one of the best in the game. So, if I can learn as much as I can from him, that'll make me a better player."
Apple also is taking no downs off. Early in Saturday's workout
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, he hounded first-year receiver Amba Etta-Tawo on a pass over the middle. Later on the Giants' first day in pads, he gave second-overall draft pick Saquon Barkley a good bump on a running back.
Shurmur certainly has been impressed by the new version of Apple.
"With my eyes, just a few months into this, I'm seeing a guy that's all about his business," Shurmur said. "He is very business-like and he is covering really well, which is a good attribute for a corner. I like the way he is working. He's out there challenging but he is also being smart. Based on what I have seen, there are very few mistakes that he is making when we move the coverage around and I like the way he is functioning in the building."
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