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Curbing Special Teams Enthusiasm

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Curbing Special Teams Enthusiasm

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Johnny Knox #13 of the Chicago Bears fields a kick-off on his way to a 70 yard return against the Buffalo Bills during a preseason game at Soldier Field on August 13, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Bills 10-3.

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Among the new rules passed by the NFL for the 2010-2011 season was one that moved up kickoffs to the 35 yard line.

The league cited full-speed head-on collisions as reason for moving kickoffs up five yards - a safety issue, to cut down on injuries. Saturday the Bears surprised many when Robbie Gould teed up the ball at the 30 yard line for their first two kickoffs.

Viewers of the Bears preseason tilt against the Bills were as confused as announcers. Former official Mike Pereira who know tweets rules explanations throughout games was on an airplane at the time of the Bears kickoffs, and landed to a bevy of tweets from fans wondering "what's up?"

"We were just trying to evaluate our kickoff team" explained Bears Special Teams coordinator Dave Toub. "You don't get any evaluation when you kick touch backs ... that's what preseason is for, it's about evaluation, who can cover kicks, that's all we were trying to do."

Toub explained the Bears requested permission before the game and were under the impression they could move their kickoffs back against the Bills at Soldier Field.

But during the game, retired official Art McNally who was assigned to work the Soldier Field press box as the NFL's officiating communicator was very vocal implying the Bears could not go against a rule in place for the safety of players.

Turns out McNally was right. Carl Johnson, NFL VP of Officiating contacted Soldier Field during the game and put an end to the 30-yard-line kickoffs.

"We thought we could do it" Toub said, "I guess it came down from New York, they got word that we can't kick from the 30, so we just went back to the 35 from there."

The Bears Corey Wootton suffered meniscus damage in his knee on covering the opening kickoff and will miss 4-6 weeks after surgery. Yet, Toub was defiant the kickoff rule is intended to protect head injuries more so than twisted knees.

"No, c'mon!" he said.

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