The NFL is trying to bring back kickoff returns, and Ravens coach John Harbaugh is all for it

OWINGS MILLS — The Ravens like a pair of rules that were passed this week at the NFL owners’ meetings.

The annual meetings, which are being held in Orlando, Florida, was attended by Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, who has not said whether he will meet with the media. Coach John Harbaugh and other team officials also attended and met with the media.

On Monday, the NFL competition committee banned hip-drop tackles, a technique by the defensive player who wraps his arms around the offensive player and becomes dead weight while dropping to the ground.

Ravens tight end Mark Andrews suffered a fractured fibula and ligament damage in his left ankle against Cincinnati on a controversial hip-drop tackle by Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson on November 16th. Andrews, who missed six games because of the injury, did not think Wilson intentionally tried to hurt him.

“It was kind of just an unfortunate event,” Andrews said. “I’m going to let everybody else do their thing. If they want to ban the tackle, [that’s] fine, but I’m going to go out there and play hard no matter what. I don’t blame the guy. He’s just playing ball.” 

The NFL reported that hip-drop tackles resulted in an injury rate up to 25 times higher than on tackles when it is not used.

There’s another rule approved on Tuesday that will change that could have an impact on the Ravens’ special teams.

The NFL wants to have more returns on kickoffs and has come up with the following proposal:

  • Kickers would be alone at the 35-yard line while the 10 players in coverage would line up at the opponent’s 40. Most of the return team will be lined up at the 35-yard line, and none in either of those areas can move from their spots until the ball is caught or hits the ground.
  • The area between the receiving team’s goal line and the 20-yard line — called the “landing zone” — will be the target for opposing kickers; any ball that lands or is caught in this zone must be returned.
  • If the ball lands in or beyond the end zone on the fly, it’s a touchback and the ball comes out to the receiving team’s 35.
  • If the ball first hits the ground in the landing zone and then goes into the end zone, it’s a touchback and the ball comes out to the receiving team’s 20.
  • Any ball that hits the ground short of the landing zone is treated like a kick out of bounds and the ball is spotted at the receiving team’s 40-yard line.

The idea is to increase return rates without raising concussion rates. This past season, the league reportedly had its lowest kickoff return rate at 22 percent.

“The thing about that I really appreciate about [NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell is that the passion and the determination to get the kickoff back into the game [and] to keep the game as exciting as it can possibly be,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said about the proposed rule. “The kickoff return has been around for a long time in football. I’m passionate about that myself. I think for Roger to be championing that and getting behind that and to be exploring every opportunity to keep the kickoff return in the game [and] make it exciting, that’s what I’m happy about. I think it’s the right thing to do.” 


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