CLEVELAND - SEPTEMBER 2: Robbie Gould #9 of the Chicago Bears warms up before before the start of the preseason game against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 2, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Robbie Gould
Devin Hester isn't the only Bears player who has a vested interest in the NFL's changes to kickoff rules. Robbie Gould, the Bears kicker and player representative to the trade organization, also has some strong opinions on kicking off from the 35-yard line instead of the 30.
He joked that it will benefit older kickers who were struggling to land the ball just short of the end zone. Now, they'll have an extra five yards to play with. But he brought up another scenario to CSN Chicago.
Hammering balls deeper means lower kicks that will be getting to the likes of Devin Hester, Ted Ginn and Percy Harvin faster than ever, “so guys will be getting the ball faster before the coverage teams can get there,” Robbie envisioned. “More teams may take the chance and bring the ball out of the end zone.”
Instead of focusing on hang time and allowing the coverage teams to get downfield, line drive kicks will be used to hit the ball out of the end zone. Those are the same kinds of kicks that Hester, also a wide receiver, can snatch out of the air and return before the coverage team gets anywhere near him.
That is a rosy look at the new rules, but the men who make their livings on special teams need a little optimism. A change in the way they do their jobs is scary, but maybe it's not as bad as Hester is making it out to be. The uptick in touchbacks is estimated to hit between 5-15 percent, and the average punt will still be in play.
It's also important to remember that Hester is a singular talent who can change a game, and five-yard deficit isn't going to take that away. The average return man doesn't make opponents cower in fear and kick the balls out of bound. The average return man doesn't hold the NFL record for return touchdowns.
The average NFL return man is not Devin Hester.