Over the weekend, I conducted my introduction to football workshop for D.C. Women’s Business Center. During the workshop, we discussed touchbacks and one of the attendees said that she had noticed more touchbacks this year than previous seasons. She is correct.
A touchback happens when a ball lands on the goal line or in the end zone and it is not a touchdown. This ruling occurs after a kickoff, punt, interception or fumble; but most of the time you see touchbacks from kickoff or punts.
The number of touchbacks has increased because the kickoff rule changed. The highest risk of injury is at kickoff. The NFL changed the rule to make kickoff safer and prevent injuries. Prior to this season, the kicking team kicked off at their 30-yard line. Now they kick off at their 35-yard line. Basically, they are kicking off 5 yards closer to their opponent’s goal line. As a result, the ball has landed in the end zone more and the number of touchbacks has increased.
A lot of fans, players and coaches are annoyed by the rule because it has impacted the number of exciting returns that fans enjoy watching. After a touchback is ruled, the ball is automatically put on the offense’s 20-yard line. So, instead of fast return specialist like Josh Cribbs from the Cleveland Browns returning a kickoff and getting strong field position (across the 50-yard line) or a touchdown, we are seeing more offenses start their drives at their 20-yard line.
I am all for player safety, but I must admit that all of the touchbacks are boring. Perhaps the league should consider more time before the kicking team can run after the receiving team.
Heels & Helmets