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Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff may have a shot at another touchbacks record next season.
Atlanta Falcons President and chairman of the NFL Competition Committee Rich McKay said Wednesday in a conference call that the committee has unanimously approved moving the line of scrimmage for kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35.
That would place kickers five yards closer to the opposing end zone and therefore make it easier for them to boom touchbacks.
The kickoff line of scrimmage used to be the 35 before it was moved back in 1994 after Jason Hanson of the Detroit Lions notched an NFL record 46 touchbacks in 1993.
Cundiff, who tied Mitch Berger’s 1998 single-season record of 40 touchbacks from the 30-yard line this past year, would seemingly have a good shot at Hanson’s record.
But would the rule change be good for the Ravens?
Last year, Baltimore held a definitive special team advantage by having Cundiff. There was no other team even close in touchbacks, as Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski had the second-most in the league with 29.
By moving kickoffs up, the playing field may be more leveled because other kickers would also be able to reach the end zone.
If there’s going to be more touchbacks, the committee wanted to at least help the offense in some way. So it also voted to move the offense’s starting line of scrimmage after a touchback from the 20-yard line to the 25.
In addition, it voted to eliminate all wedge blocks. Last year, blocks were changed to only allow a two-man wedge. Those covering kickoffs would also only be allowed a 5-yard running start before kickoff instead of the usual 10 to 15-yard run they have been taking.
The reason cited for the rule changes is to help eliminate concussions and other major injuries during kickoffs. Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta suffered a concussion in kickoff coverage last year and David Reed was knocked out for the season with a concussion and wrist injury on the same return.
All recommendations made by the competition committee –which Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome is a member of – will be voted on by league owners next week at their annual meeting. Rule changes must be approved by at least three-quarters of the owners to be implemented.